Decorating a large dessert service with botanical illustrations of flower specimens allowed the Derby painters to display their art and expertise in a grand manner, since the variations in colors from dish to dish made for a splendid overall impression. The scalloped dishes here have large renderings of Borage and Lonicera (Honeysuckle), each identified on the back. The yellow ground was one of the most desirable colors to accompany these botanical designs. In this case the source of the design of one and probably both of these dishes is known. John Edwards (born 1742) worked in and around London as an artist and designer of calico prints. He showed watercolors of flowers at exhibitions from 1763 to 1812. The British Herbal (1770) was his first book of engraved plates, and in 1795 he published his very rare volume A Collection of Flowers Drawn after Nature and Disposed in an Ornamental and Picturesque Manner (second edition 1806). This is a portfolio of 67 large colored engravings, with the individual prints dated 1783-95. Because Edwards himself did all the drawing, engraving and hand-coloring, he produced only a few copies. Derby certainly purchased one of them, since the factory took many flower designs from the book, and in fact it seems that Derby was the only porcelain factory of the time to make use of it. Derby’s artists drew on Edwards’s engravings both for individual flower designs and for bouquets, ornamental borders, swags, etc. Many of the best of these renderings on porcelain were done by William Pegg, known then and now as Quaker Pegg, and these dishes are very much in his early style. I’m including a photo of the print of “Borage” from Edwards, obviously the source of the Derby design, but modified here by Pegg to suit the available space. As you can see from comparing all three—the print, the white-ground dish and the yellow-ground dish—the design is different and unique on each one, not a simple copy. John Twitchett called Pegg “One of the finest natural flower painters ever to paint on china” and mentioned that his works that have the flower name in blue on the reverse, as here, are attributed to his first period of employment at Derby, under a five-year contract beginning in 1796. Condition overall is excellent. There is some faint speckling from the firing(s) and small areas of color wear on the shaped ribs, but no chips or cracks. Four small glaze chips on one leaf have been touched up to match. Provenance: The Antique Porcelain Company in London.
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