Here is a bowl with the very interesting and attractive—and popular—Stag Hunt pattern, adapted from an original Chinese design. (In their account books, Chamberlain referred to this pattern as the “Hunting Pattern in Compartments” and used the early pattern number 9 for it.) One scene shows hunters and their dogs in a Chinese setting with pagodas and oriental trees. The design on the far right of this main scene shows a pagoda on a red cliff. The second scene shows two Chinese men in conversation amid an oriental landscape. This is a Chinoiseries type of pattern, meaning that it is a European interpretation and adaptation of a Chinese design. As a result, the Chinese buildings don’t look like real Chinese buildings, since English decorators had never seen the actual buildings but needed to work from etchings, often based only on vague descriptions. They also didn’t quite understand the spatial and optical laws of Chinese art—that something toward the top of the image is farther away, not higher in the sky. That’s why the hunter seems to be flying through the air on a small section of grass! The Stag Hunt design was very popular. It was used extensively at the Worcester factory, but other factories such as the ones in Liverpool also used it, and it was also used by independent decorators such as James Giles in London who did not make their own porcelain but purchased it in the white, glazed it, fired it and sold it at a markup. The colors are bright and appealing. Especially noteworthy here is the large scale of the design, with two spacious panels that wrap around nearly the whole circumference of the bowl. It is almost six and a quarter inches across, a little over three inches in height, and in wonderful shape. There is a slight bit of gilding loss on the top rim and a little wear to the small scene on the inside of the bowl, but no wear at all on the outside. Also on the inside surface is a dark speck, an original flaw from the firing in the kiln. Underneath, there is a small nearly invisible crack in the glaze. It rings beautifully when tapped and is typical of the very hard-paste porcelain that Chamberlain produced for itself when business arrangements with the Caughley factory began to sour. Prior to about 1792-3, the vast majority of Chamberlain’s products had been Caughley porcelain that they added decoration to, but difficulties in meeting the demands of their customers and the Caughley factory’s inability to supply porcelain fast enough had convinced Chamberlain to start making their own porcelain. It was a very hard and glassy porcelain, much like Chinese Export. Which leads to the question, is this bowl one of Chamberlain’s own porcelains, or is it perhaps a Chinese Export bowl that they bought in the white and decorated with their own pattern? Take a careful look. It is extremely unusual that there is no raised footrim on this bowl. This feature is found on Chinese bowls sometimes, but not on any English bowls that I know of. Might it be an example of Chinese porcelain that Chamberlain bought in order to fill out an incomplete set for a waiting customer when no other bowl was available? Remember, it rings like a bell, and there is a small area of orange-peel surface on the bottom. I leave this interesting question to the new owner to investigate. If it is by Chamberlain, it is indeed a very rare shape.
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