Here is a matching pair of antique porcelain dinner plates decorated with a vibrant cobalt blue ground and embellished with exotic birds, butterflies and insects in white reserves. They were originally part of an extensive dinner service that was made at the Chamberlain factory in Worcester. Both are eight and a half inches across and in superb condition with minimal wear after 200 years. Dr. Davis was the most highly regarded painter at the Chamberlain factory. He is known to have worked there continuously from 1793 to 1816, and there is also a note made in 1824 that reads, “A teaset, blue ground, gold shell and Davis’s fancy birds in panel and flies.” (The “flies” are the insects.) Geoffrey Godden refers to Davis as a “superb Worcester bird painter” and gives evidence that he was the leading artist and the foreman of all the painters at the factory. He is the only artist mentioned by name in the early Chamberlain records. He is believed to have painted birds at Worcester in the 1780s and moved to Chamberlains after they set up their rival factory in 1786—as an enterprise first decorating blank white porcelain and later making its own porcelain to decorate. The delicacy of the painting and gilding on this pair of plates is exceptionally fine. The antennae of the butterflies look like they were painted with a single hair rather than a brush, and likewise with some of the gilded flourishes. The butterflies are extraordinarily vivid and vibrant with colors. Do actual butterflies have so many different colors? Not only that, but the landscapes behind the birds are also well-rendered and exceptionally detailed. Each reserve portrays a different fanciful (and never seen in nature) bird. Each plate also has ten butterflies and several smaller insects, painted in painstaking and intricate detail. The luscious dark blue ground is almost black, and sets off the painting with a very effective contrast. For the record, there is a tiny flaw on the breast of one of the birds (shown), but this is barely noticeable. These plates are the best of the best in this style.
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