Exhibition | Pots with Attitude: Political and Satirical Prints on Ceramics

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on December 29, 2017

From the press release for the exhibition:

Pots with Attitude: British Satire on Ceramics, 1760–1830
The British Museum, London, 12 January — 11 March 2018

Curated by Patricia Ferguson

Ceramics are rarely confrontational, but the pugnacious mugs, jugs, and plates in Pots with Attitude: British Satire on Ceramics, 1760–1830, in Room 90a, a display at the British Museum, supported by the Monument Trust, are exceptions. Here, utilitarian creamwares and pearlwares are transformed with images appropriated from contemporary engravings into militant wares, fragile platforms criticising the latest political propaganda or blunder. Humour dissipates the uncomfortable truths in these satirical prints published in London between 1770 and 1830. Transferring printed images direct from copper plates onto ceramic bodies was an innovation embraced by the English potteries in the 1750s. They quickly exploited its possibilities to international acclaim and commercial gain. This interdisciplinary display uniting political prints and transfer-printed ceramics, two great British traditions, is part of a one-year Monument Trust funded curatorial project to champion interactions between 18th-century prints and ceramics.

Creamware jug, probably Liverpool, transfer-printed in red, ‘The Governor of Europe Stopped in his Career’, ca. 1803, 13 cm (London: The British Museum, 1922,1220.2.CR).

The British Museum has one of the largest collections of satirical prints in the world. The earliest were acquired by Sarah Sophia Banks (1744–1818), the sister of the naturalist Sir Joseph Banks (1743–1820), who collected 800 caricatures, as they were then known. Despite their popular appeal, these costly, hand-coloured etchings were aimed at the affluent and sold at Mayfair ‘Caricature Warehouses’ from the 1780s. The aristocracy pasted them into albums or lined print rooms with them as at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Samuel Fores (1761–1838), an enterprising London publisher, at No. 50, Piccadilly, offered ‘Folios of Caricatures lent out for the Evening’. Others charged an entrance fee, but many enjoyed them in the windows of print-shops for free.

Mass-produced pots with political prints were marketed at a broader social level and appeared on inexpensive earthenware, more at home in an alehouse than a drawing room. Most were printed over the glaze. New copper plates were engraved, scaled to the size of the pots. The small but choice collection in the British Museum is primarily from the 1887 gift of Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks (1826–1897), the first Keeper of the newly formed Department of British and Mediaeval Antiquities and Ethnography, who believed that the Museum’s collection should reflect historical events. Many of the pots in the display are on loan from a generous private collector.

Creamware jug, probably Liverpool, transfer-printed in red, ‘Success To the Volunteers’, ca. 1803, 13 cm (London: The British Museum, 1922,1220.2.CR).

The imagery became increasingly cruel, especially during Napoleon Bonaparte’s threatened invasion in 1803, when prints as government funded propaganda stirred up the populace with nasty images of the Corsican tyrant. Just weeks before the collapse of the Peace of Amiens in May 1803, a caricaturist captured a colossal ‘Boney’ with a foot firmly planted in Germany about to straddle the English Channel. A feisty, pint-sized John Bull with a blood stained sword has sliced off his toes, while exclaiming ‘Paws off, Pompey’, associating Bonaparte with the hero of a popular novel, a lap-dog, known as ‘Pompey the Little’.

This particular image was used by a number of potteries in Liverpool, Staffordshire, and Sunderland. The reverse of a creamware ale or wine jug, transfer-printed in iron-red, is inscribed ‘Success to the Volunteers’ within a Bacchic grapevine border. The Volunteers were a civilian militia formed following the Defence of the Realm Act 1803, when the heightened threat of invasion easily mobilized a 380,000 strong force by the year’s end. What role, if any, these humble printed pots played in encouraging their decision to volunteer is debatable, but they clearly supported their agenda.

Lecture by Patricia Ferguson
Tuesday, 23 January 2018, 13.15–14.00, Room 90a; free, just drop in.

Study Day | Pots, Prints, and Politics: Ceramics with an Agenda
Friday, 16 February 2018. More information is available here.

Note (added 28 January 2018) — The original version of this posting listed the title as Pots with Attitude: Political and Satirical Prints on Ceramics.

Display | Sir Hans Sloane’s Practices of Collecting and Cataloguing

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on December 29, 2017

Now on view at The British Museum:

A Physician’s Cabinet: Sir Hans Sloane’s Practices of Collecting and Cataloguing
The British Museum, London, 24 November 2017 — 11 January 2018

Dorothea Graff, Scarlet Ibis, watercolour on vellum, ca. 1700–07 (London: The British Museum).

This small display brings together an array of prints, drawings, and objects—all related to medicine—that were collected by the founder of the British Museum, Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1753). Sloane was a well-regarded physician and this display focuses on how medicine influenced his collecting. During the course of his life, Sloane brought together hundreds of thousands of objects to create one of the most significant collections in the world. On his death, he bequeathed these objects to the nation and they became the foundation of the British Museum’s collection.

Sloane was first and foremost a physician, and was doctor to Queen Anne and Kings George I and II. Medicine, in its broadest sense, influenced how Sloane collected and catalogued objects, especially from the natural world. He received specimens of plants, insects, shells and corals from around the globe. He also acquired exquisite albums of watercolours and drawings like the works on display by Jan Van Huysum (1682–1749) and Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717) and her daughters.

The medicinal use of objects was also important to Sloane. He carefully recorded this information as he organised his collection at his house in Bloomsbury Square and later in Chelsea. Two objects sent to him from China and Japan are on show for the first time: a fine ear cleaning implement and an ornate acupuncture needle case. Rare engravings—including a broadside on conjoined twins by John Day (1522–1584) and prints after Rubens (1577–1640) showing human musculature—demonstrate Sloane’s interest in artistic processes, anatomy, and the curiosities of nature.

New Book | The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale Junior

Posted in books by Editor on December 29, 2017

From Philip Wilson:

Judith Goodison, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale Junior (Philip Wilson, 2017), 464 pages, ISBN: 9781781300565, £65 / $95.

The Chippendale cabinet-making firm, founded by Thomas Chippendale senior in about 1750 became famous partly through the succesful publication of his The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director (1754, re-published 1755 and 1762), and partly through the fine furniture supplied to a number of illustrious clients. Chippendale senior ran the workshop for just over twenty years. His eldest son Thomas Chippendale junior (1749–1822) continued the business for over forty, the first two decades in partnership with Thomas Haig. Chippendale senior’s work has been well documented. Chippendale junior’s work has never, until now, been thoroughly researched. The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale Junior repairs the omission. His patrons included members of the Royal Family, aristocrats, landed gentry, and antiquarians. He was adept at satisfying their demands, whether they required lavish gilt or simpler, often mahogany, pieces. Where family archives and original settings survive, as at Harewood House, Paxton House, and Stourhead, they reveal the variety and quality of Chippendale’s output. Analysis of client’s invoices, even when the furniture can no longer be traced, for the first time provides a colourful view of what customers chose and what prices they paid.

Judith Goodison FSA is a furniture historian and has been researching the work of Thomas Chippendale junior for the last ten years.

%d bloggers like this: