Here is a figure group in the unique porcelain that Derby used when it wanted to preserve the most minute details of the molding in its figures. To say that these details are stunning would be an understatement. They are amazing, and just as amazing is the level of skill it required to assemble the whole figure from the dozens of molded clay pieces that needed to be put together before firing in the kiln (in the early days they called this process “repairing”). The Four Elements (Earth, Air, Fire and Water) were a staple of figure design in the 18th century. Usually, as here, they were arranged separately for display on the shelf or mantle. This figure has many symbolic references to air: the bird in a cage (with the gate left open) , the nest of birds (with the watchful mother bird) at the top, the winged cherubs, the bird sitting on the ground. All are composed upon a rocky mound with applied flowers and leaves. The large tree displays a mass of wonderful individual leaves, each molded with minute veins. We can imagine that the young male cherub has just climbed the tree looking for eggs to present to his companion, but the eggs have already hatched and he returns empty-handed to his soon-to-be-disappointed friend who is reaching out to him. The price I’m asking for this figure reflects the amount of damage it has sustained in the two centuries since it was created. One round cage under the fellow’s feet is entirely missing, the girl cherub has been off as a unit and reglued, with both of her arms also reglued. The mother bird has been accurately replaced, and some of the leaves have been chipped—though this figure has many more leaves still present than on other examples I’ve seen. It is only nine inches high, though it gives the impression of being larger. Derby liked to refer to itself as “the Second Dresden” (that is, just as good as Meissen) and when you see the excellent quality of its biscuit porcelain figure-making you have to agree.

A warm welcome! Please consider all our offerings, and feel free to inquire about more information. We’re always buying, so let us know if you have early porcelain items to sell.
Bisque, Bone China, Ceramics, Porcelain
Royal Crown Derby
England • English

Laureate Antiques

Derby Biscuit Figure of Air from the Four Elements C.1785. Number 48.


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