English Porcelain Factories - Chelsea

A few cream jugs with the word 'Chelsea', a triangle and the date 1745 incised in the clay under the base before it was fired have been preserved. They prove that the works was in being by that year, and it has been argued that because the jugs are so well finished whoever made them had practised his skill for some time prior. A number of other pieces also marked with a scratched triangle are known, and to about the same early date belongs a mark in underglaze blue in the form of a trident intersecting a a crown. Most of these wares were unpainted but glazed, and some show that French porcelain of the period was probably their inspiration as regards both the modelling and the glassy body.

Porcelain Marking
Porcelain Marking
Porcelain Marking
Incised in the paste before it hardened, but has been faked. 1745-50 An anchor raised on an oval mound, some times with the anchor painted red. 1749-52 Painted in red; sometimes on the base of a piece, but often among the surface decoration of figures. 1752-58 An anchor in gold was used from 1758-69.

From 1749, the factory was managed by Nicholas Sprimont, originally a silversmith from Liege, and under his direction it reached great heights. The most important period lasted from 1752 until 1758, and includes three sales by auction of which the catalogues of two have survived. By means of these, many of the articles then made have been identified, and a clear idea gained of the diversity of pieces current. The most significant are the figures, many after Dresden but many original, and having ample individuality in modelling and colouring. By this time, most of the wares were painted at the factory, and the work of several artists with recognizably personal styles has been recorded. From the mark that was used this is known as the Red Anchor period, and W. B. Honey suggested that Chelsea was then responsible for 'perhaps the most beautiful porcelain material ever made'.

The following Gold Anchor period saw a trend to more ambitious pieces; large figures and groups, vases and costly table services, decorated in brilliant colourings and often heavily gilt. The factory eventually ceased to pay and was sold in 1769. Bought by William Duesbury of Derby, it continued manufacturing until 1784, but the wares were not to be compared with those of former days. One speciality of Chelsea deserves a mention: the so-called 'Toys', or miniature pieces in the form of seals, scent-bottles, snuff-boxes, etc., which were made in large numbers and remain as popular today as they were in the 1760's. Of these, a few miniature figures bear the anchor in red but none of the other trifles has any mark. A scent-bottle, in the British Museum, is dated 1759.



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