Here is a large and very rare figure made at the Derby factory when it was expanding its roster of sweetmeat figures in the 1760s. The Italian Comedy, or Commedia dell’arte, was chiefly a Renaissance mode of theater involving stock characters, improvisation and comical portrayals of class distinctions, and its remnants persisted onto the 18th-century stage, though it had been much changed and adapted as the years went by. The characters (and their standardized costumes) were well-known to these audiences, and each one would have been immediately identifiable to most theater-goers because of the exaggerated portrayals.
This very impressive stand was designed as a centerpiece for the table. It could have held candied or pickled fruit, nuts or other desserts as part of the final course of a formal dinner, but I suspect it was most often simply set out for decoration. The lovers, Isabella and the Gallant, are present on one side, facing each other, but the pointy-hatted Jester with his prosthetic nose (at least I hope it’s prosthetic!) lies in wait behind them to cause a mighty and uproarious ruckus. Their costumes—highlighted by jaunty feathered hats on all—are well-detailed and typical of the silks worn by the aristocracy—or at least by the actors portraying them on stage. On the massive triangular base we find all sorts of applied flowers, buds and leaves, connected by vines. There are well over a dozen types of different flowers, with each petal and stamen individually molded by hand in intricate detail. The wealth of flowers is truly amazing and worth more than a passing glance. I invite you to take some time and look at these flowers one by one.
This particular figure is the very one illustrated in John Twitchett’s book, “Derby Porcelain 1748-1848” on page 237. Twitchett refers to it as being in a museum, and it was when he wrote the book, but the museum’s decision to remove it from their collection does allow you to purchase what is indeed in every sense literally a museum piece. (I will provide more specific information to the buyer.) It still holds the museum’s red acquisition number on the bottom (60.175). An earlier example of this group is illustrated by Frank Stoner, “Chelsea, Bow and Derby Porcelain Figures” (1955), plate 59. This magnificent group stands nine and three-quarters inches high. Condition is excellent and restorations are few: four of the very fragile upright feathers, several minor chips on the shell edges, and one set of fingers. Some flower petals have been repaired. As always with early figures, there are some minor flaws from the firing. All in all, it displays as perfect.
My Memorial Day discounts have started and will run until Monday night.
Derby Figure: Shell Sweetmeat Centerpiece with Italian Comedy Figures: Isabella, Gallant and Jester. C1765 Antique English Porcelain.
2 other shoppers are interested in this item