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Nic Saintey
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About Nic Saintey
Nic Saintey is a director and a specialist in ceramics. His effervescent nature and wide experience has seen him regularly appear as an expert on the BBC's Bargain Hunt and Flog It programmes
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The material published in this web log is for general purposes only. It does not constitute nor is it intended to represent professional advice. You should always seek specific professional advice in relation to particular issues. The information in this web log is provided "as is" with no warranties and confers no rights. The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions.

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Review Entries for Day Sunday, January 25, 2009

Of all the major porcelain manufactories in Germany perhaps the least known and the shortest lived was Frankenthal. Karl Hannong the brains behind a French faience workshop moved his staff in the late 1750’s to an empty army camp in Frankenthal. After a difficult start the death of Karl and an internecine struggle over the secret recipe for ‘porcelain pots’ meant that the surviving brothers Joseph and Peter had to rely increasingly on Carl Theodor Prince Elector, Count Palatine and Duke of Bavaria.

It was not long before Carl a long time patron of the arts and founder of a Science Academy took over the administration of the Franthenthal works. This led to a period of relative stability and arguably produced some of the best quality porcelain outside of Meissen during the 1760’s. 

 carl theodor frankenthal porcelain boar


So its Hats off to Carl, patron of the arts and all round good guy – unfortunately as a monarch and politician he rather failed at his day job by leading his country into some ill considered conflicts and dodgy blue sky thinking when he proffered a playground swap for the less interesting bits of his country with the then neighbouring Austrians. Eventually when he shuffled off this mortal coil after suffering from a stroke, did his citizens rush out in patriotic fervour and buy up all his remaining pots as future antiques and collectors items? No, apparently not , instead they celebrated for three days, so much then for best intentions.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009 9:23:02 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I don’t know about you, but I often wonder what singular piece of inspiration caused the first person to consider using ground up swim bladder to clear wine. What arbitrary series of events occurred in the mind of the individual who mixed tobacco spit and urine because it made a ‘nice pattern’ on Mocha Ware – a man could lose sleep over things like that.

So it is with Lot 365 in tomorrow’s sale. I have nothing against pottery jugs, how could I, they are inoffensive enough and are often beautiful works of art in their own right? Elsemore & Forster were a rather small concern based in Tunstall between 1853 and 1871 that made useful objects in Ironstone (a sort of robust pottery that has some of the characteristics of porcelain). Don’t get me wrong it is a great jug, a little on the large size, probably on the edge of being practical when full, but who in their right mind conceived the decorative scheme on it. Who stood back and said yep that’s good, I’m pleased with that?

elsmore & forster grimaldi jug

Often referred to as a ‘Grimaldi’ jug in deference to the two passable portraits of the late great celebrated British Clown it also has a rather sweet if eclectic series of  domestic and wild animal portraits that a nightingale, cats, frogs, bears, zebras, tigers, a race horse and others including a rather distressed beached whale. It looks like the kind of jug a Victorian child might covet, a pleasant distraction that had the advantage of passing educational value.

That is it would have been had not the design department of Elsmore & Forster considered that the ideal decoration for the rim was a series of cock fighting prints that include gory images of the ‘Knock Down’ and ‘The Kill’. Was this just a collage of spare or off cut transfers,  it seems not, several similar have come to market in the last few years? Was this a jug for grown ups – maybe? However this jug has a name and a date 1860 which indicates it was a present for a youngster, perhaps for a birthday. I wonder if master Joseph Morgan had nightmares, whether he grew up to be a pillar of society, or whether he sought solace in pulling the legs off spiders?
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Tuesday, January 13, 2009 2:30:01 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Monday, January 12, 2009

If I told you that Josiah Wedgwood was buried in a ceramic coffin you would probably be right to distrust me. However, whatever vessel he resides in he must surely be spinning in it now with the very sad news that his once proud ‘pottery business’ has gone the way of nearly every other domestic ceramic concern in this country.

Josiah Wedgwood the man who invented Black Basalt and every conceivable colour of Jasper Ware, the individual who improved the quality of fine bodied Cream Ware made pottery not just a poor cousin to porcelain, but a very real competitor to it in every sense.

 wedgwood blue jasperware      wedgwood keith murray 'annular' vases.    wedgwood ravilious 'garden implements' pattern.

Even better I just loved the idea that even a grand ‘art house’ concern such as Wedgwood also made toilets, sanitary wares, tiles and things of a more mundane nature, something that should have made it a resilient business.

The company continued it's enterprising spirit through the 19th and on into the 20th century with Wedgwood employing striking and radical designers such as Keith Murray and Eric Ravilious and on occasion the downright bizarre if you consider the ‘Fairyland Lustre’ of Daisy Makieg Jones!  Just where did it all go wrong?

Is the concept of a ceramic coffin equally as bizarre? Apparently not, several examples have been unearthed in the Hamadan area of Iran, most recently in 2001. 

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Monday, January 12, 2009 3:36:50 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Sunday, January 11, 2009

Perhaps because I’m flawed myself, I despise perfection – perfection has no character – no matter how great its quality. Perfection in porcelain is something to be admired in itself, the skill and dexterity to make something so perfect it could have been made by a machine!

For me there can be nothing greater than the naive charm of an object that shows the ‘free’ hand of its artisan maker, a comforting earthiness, an accidental fingerprint perhaps. Peasant art, and rather backward looking maybe, but a Donyatt puzzle jug has all the warmth, comfort and character that anyone could wish for from a ‘useful’ object.

I was bought up in Bideford and now live in Somerset, literally miles from the site of the old Donyatt pottery – of course I’m biased. Donyatt shows all the character of the popular, but unaffordable Bideford and Barnstaple harvest jugs, probably because the raw material was the same in both places and because one John Jewell made the trip from Bideford to nearby Chard in the 1690s.

The body, glaze and style of decoration remained fairly consistent for centuries. The example illustrated is from the latter years of the Donyatt pottery and was probably produced by the Arlidge family.

a donyatt puzzle jug from somerset

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Sunday, January 11, 2009 2:31:31 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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