Here is a very colorful 18th-century figurine of a girl holding a basket of grapes, one from a set of the Four Seasons, and identified on the bottom with the factory’s model number 123. The set of four was known as the French Seasons, and they were extremely popular, so much so that the Derby factory made sets in four different sizes to suit the decorating needs of their customers. This figure is just over seven and three-eighths inches tall. The set of figures would have done double duty: sometimes set up for display in a cabinet and sometimes arrayed among the dishes on the dessert table. Historically they hearken back to designs by Boucher, but in the process of adaptation these versions have become typically Derby. They are first mentioned in a surviving Derby catalog of 1782, but the cylindrical base of this figure indicates a later version, redesigned perhaps around 1791-5, when William Coffee refurbished the models in a more neoclassical style. If you look closely at the photograph of the bottom, you can see an incised triangle mark (in addition to the pattern number), which is the personal mark of Joseph Hill, the man who assembled into one figure all the dozens of partial pieces that came from the numerous molds needed to make figures. Mr. Hill was apparently one of the earliest apprentices of the man who started the Derby factory, William Duesbury, Sr., and must have worked at the factory for many years. Such individual marks are quite rare and not typical of the factory.
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