Here is a historic plate by Nicholas Sprimont’s porcelain factory in Chelsea, made at the height of the factory’s decorative rococo style. The design is triangular, picked up in the molded details that are spread around the rim. Fancy birds are nestled in the rim and fruiting buds are painted in and around the extravagantly colored birds. There are six birds in all, with extra splashes of fruit in the center of the plate. Separating the panels of birds are scrolls with gilt and blue glazed highlights. A gilt band that resembles icicles separates the rim of the plate from the center. The scrolling shape of the molded edge is a masterpiece of rococo design. It has the Chelsea gold anchor mark on the reverse. As you can see in the photos, the decoration is in pristine condition. The only sign of age is some scuffing to the clear glaze caused by stacking wear. This plate was once part of a service at Blenheim Palace. I have a companion plate from the same service that has a partial label on the back reading “. . . Palace.” (The photo above showing the label is from that other plate. The label on this plate is missing.) The label originally read “Blenheim Palace,” and other pieces from this service are known with the same identifying label intact. The service was probably made for Blenheim originally. Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace in 1874, and grew up there when he wasn’t off at boarding school. He also proposed to his wife Clementine in the Temple of Diana on the grounds. With his typical wry humor, he is quoted as saying, “At Blenheim I took two very important decisions; to be born and to marry. I am content with the decision I took on both occasions.” Also, Blenheim is considered by some to be the model for Downton Abbey. At some point—perhaps in an 1886 auction of material from Blenheim by Christie’s—the Chelsea service was sold, and nowadays pieces like this plate occasionally come available. It is eight and one-eighth inches across and in remarkable condition, with no damage or wear to the decoration. The plate also fired perfectly in the kiln, with no obvious firing flaws and no crazing to the glaze. The table ring didn’t even need to be ground flat—a characteristic of many Chelsea porcelain pieces. (The table ring on the matching plate is ground flat.) There are three very light scratches on the surface from use, and in fact the plate may have been used only once or twice since it was made. It simply sat in the cupboard for 250 years looking pretty! And it is indeed very pretty. This important plate with historical associations galore, in near perfect condition and with ultimate decorative charm could be the highlight of your collection of antique British porcelain.
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