These matching plates are decorated in puce with majestic, impressive flowers very probably painted by James Bakewell, one of Josiah Wedgwood’s preeminent artists. Bakewell, like all the artists who worked for Wedgwood, wasn’t allowed to sign his work, so it’s usually a guessing game as to whether he painted a plate or someone else imitating his style, but in this case he might have gotten away with it. On the back of one plate, very tiny, is a puce letter “B” with a comma after it. Yes, “too good to be true,” but it’s there, and who else could it stand for but Bakewell himself? Plus, the quality of these plates is unsurpassed. If it wasn’t Bakewell who painted them, it was someone else with the same name! They are eight and a half inches in diameter. Plates of this type with the distinctive shell edge molding were included in the Husk Service supplied by Wedgwood to Catherine the Great and presently displayed at Peterhof Palace, St. Petersburg. James Bakewell joined Wedgwood in the summer of 1768 and by the winter of 1769 Josiah reported to Bentley, “Bakewell has set his mind on being a good enamel Painter and really improves very much in flowers . . .” Josiah was sometimes prone to understatement. Four plates possibly from the same service as these two were sold by Bonham’s in 2012, and I’m including a photo of them for reference. They were all cracked. These plates are not. Some small glaze chips on the edges and on the flowers have been touched up. Otherwise they are undamaged and in great condition. They are simply magnificent on display. They catch your eye from across the room and won’t let go.
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