It’s unusual to find such a large set of plates as these, and it’s also unusual to find blue-and-gilt decoration this elaborate. Blue-decorated porcelain and blue- and gilt-decorated porcelain were major lines of ceramic production during this period, but that was because they could be produced quickly and simply, with fewer firings than it took to create polychrome pieces. Obviously, in this case, simplicity and speed were not important factors at all. These seven and three-eighths inch plates are unmarked, but attributed either to the Caughley factory or to Robert Chamberlain’s factory at Worcester, when he was purchasing white porcelain blanks from Caughley and decorating them. This was before Chamberlain began to fire his own porcelain and operated solely as a decorating studio. Chamberlain started decorating Caughley porcelain blanks in 1789. By 1796 they were firing the majority of their own porcelain. Since most early Chamberlain’s pieces were unmarked, and Caughley pieces were often marked, perhaps the nod should go to Chamberlain as the porcelain maker in this case. To make the situation even more confusing, it appears that Chamberlain not only decorated Caughley pieces which he sold himself in his shop in Worcester, but also decorated Caughley porcelain which Caughley then sold as their own! This design is typical of the Neoclassical style favored in the last quarter of the century, but is exceptionally detailed and opulent. Condition: Nearly all in fine condition. Two have small rim chips. Two have small areas of misfired blue on the rim. Two have noticeable gilt wear to the emblem in the center. Since they are hand-decorated, the proportions of the gilt and blue lines vary somewhat from plate to plate. Available as closely matched pairs or as a complete set.
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