Antique delft tile decorated with a hand painted scene in a rich cobalt blue dating from the mid 1700s (see all nine Photos). There are some details on this tin glazed tile that suggest it also could be even older, such as the spider head corner motifs (see Photo #7; also called the bug). On English tiles, the spider head corner motif is not common and when present is restricted to the late 1600s through early 1700s and rarely as late as 1750 according to the late Jonathan Horne and the information suggested in his book‘English Tinglazed Tiles’ (published in 1989 by Grillford Ltd., Granby, Great Britain). The spider head corner motif was much more common Dutch tin-glazed tiles from about 1650 on forward to the late 1700s (see Ivor Noel Hume 1970: pp. 290-91, No. 12). The tile listed here is likely English and from kilns in London since it is much the same as Tile #69 illustrated in Horne’s tile treatise on page 26 (ibid. Horne 1989). Both Horne’s tile and the tile listed here are from a linear sequence of rural peasant tile depictions because the scene is painted across the entire tile from left to right same as the tile shown in Horne (ibid., pg 26).
The rural scene on the tile for sale here shows a young man with Shepard’s crook bent down on one knee and offering something to the female in front of him (see Photos #2 and #4). Apparently changes in both culture and material goods over the last 250 years obscure what is being offered and what the true meaning or importance is of this scene. Is the young man proposing to the woman? What is it that the young man is offering her? It sort of looks like a knit cap with odd plumes or a loaf of bread. If any viewers knows more about this scene, then kindly drop me an email - thanks, Doc. And is the homely woman really supposed to a lot older than the young man? Is she sitting or kneeling, too? And is her clothing appropriate since the top of her blouse seems a bit risque?
There are other elements in the scene that are also standard on hand painted Shepard and Shepardess delft tiles of the early to mid 1700s. For example, the sheep look like snails with featureless blob bodies lacking legs and paired antennae projecting off their shapeless heads. One of the sheep is shown up close in Photo #3. These sheep depictions seem to always show them with their backside to the viewer. Once you’ve notice the sheep, you’ll never miss seeing one of them again on a 250+ year old tin glazed tile depicting Shepards.
Lastly, one cannot help but mention that the woman’s facial appearance is at best rather manly and does not match our idea of beauty today or even beauty back some 500 years ago, either. Think about the Mona Lisa or Queen Nefertiti for humanity’s frequent visual concept of feminine beauty since ancient time. And so the woman with the broad brimmed hat on this tile is no beauty, plain and simple. That may be why the tree leans over the two figures and attempts to draw your eye upward and away from the obvious. The short leafy branches on the tree contrast with its thick craggy trunk and broken section suggesting that it is old and has survived many a turbulent storm. As for the woman, some details are better left unsaid.
The age of this tile is likely from the c1720 to c1760 period, hence the c1740 mid-date although it could be older as noted above. It has a shiny Kwaart covering it that was popular on some English tiles produced between 1690 and 1760 (see Anthony Ray’s ‘English Delftware Pottery in the Robert Hall Warren Collection’, published in 1968 by Boston Book & Art Shop: pp 37, also-87). Kwaart was commonly used on Dutch tiles and Dutch delftware vessels starting in the mid 1600s when they competed to capture some of the demand for look-alike Chinese blue and white export porcelain.
The scene is quickly painted and the lines and shading reveal that at least two different brushes were used: a broad bush for shading and fine pencil brush for drawing outlines and thin lines. A small nail hole is evident in one of the corners (see pencil pointing to tiny original nail hole in Photo #5) and was left behind by the copper nail shanks used to hold the damp clay blanks in place when the clay squares were cut and trimmed prior to drying and subsequent decorating and firing.
SIZE & CONDITION: This tile is about 5 1/8 to 5 3/16 inches square, composed of brownish buff colored clay with some tiny inclusions (see Photo #8) and is just over 3/8 inches thick (0.361 inches thick). There is a thin coating of soft sandy lime mortar still adhering across most of the back of the tile (see Photo #9). All four corners are intact although the right edge of the tile has been shaved and partly cut down probably to have the tile fit into a corner section of a wall (see Photo #1 and right edge of tile). The glaze is shiny and bright and is the result of using a thin clear Kwaart glaze over top of the opaque tin glaze. The tile face is clean with no stains, deep scratches, edge chips, wear or visible glaze crazing (see all Photos). Under magnification and using reflective lighting, one can see fine scratches from years of cleaning but not deeply gouged areas. And so this tile is in excellent condition and has no hairlines, breaks, repairs or restoration. In all, a wonderful antique tile more than 250 years old with an interesting scene and large tree not commonly found on English or Dutch tiles of the same period. A better painted Shepard, woman, and large tree tile would be hard to find without paying twice what is asked here. And as always, this tin glazed antique tile also comes with my Docs Antiques 100% satisfaction guarantee or you may return it using my return policy (see complete Return Policy details farther below). You also have the option to request a customized lay-away plan for purchasing this item (and other Doc’s items when combining orders) by simply requesting the terms you wish to use and then let me take care of setting it up and combining any items together as requested (payment installments may be modified at any time should the unexpected ever arise, just let me know by email and I’ll change the due dates).
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