This is a pair of figural French hard paste porcelain smoke set, 19th century, circa 1850.
This pair features the rounded curves of children, and in addition shows bright white glazed hard paste porcelain on the underside and the predominant use of a soft blue aqua color. On the underside of each is impressed (or incised – it is difficult to tell and I realize the difference is important) the number 20 followed by a capital “B.”
Each figure is a smoke set. One figure is of a boy; the other figure is of a girl. Each figure is leaning against a barrel. The barrel holds the cigarettes or cigars or whatever was smoked back then. Each figure has a basket strapped to their back. The basket holds the matches. At the feet of each figure is a smaller round basket with the lid open and flopped to the side. In this basket the ashes and the clippings from the cigars are deposited. The open lid is the striker, where the person struck the match to light it.
Each piece weighs almost three pounds, so that is almost six pounds for the pair. They are approximately 9” high, 7 1/8” long, and 4 ¾” wide.
The children are barefoot and standing on a grassy knoll. The very bottom of the base is the soft blue-green, then the rest of the base is white touched with a shade of gray, and that is the same shade on the rest of the figures where you see white. The flesh tones are good. The cheeks and lips are pink, and the eyes are dark. The hair on the boy is gray, and on the girl it is brown.
On the boy figure there is a repair to the top back of the basket on the boy’s back. I show a close up photo and I circled the repair in bright red. Anything else is due to age and the glazing process, including a few ash flecks. One corner of a leaf in the garland on the boy’s head feels a bit rough, but again, I believe it is part of the glazing, though there could be a pinprick glaze skip.
On the girl, there is a glaze skip on the inside bottom of the barrel. Again, there are minor glazing imperfections, such as little bumps and a few ash flecks. There is a flake or chip to an inner ridge on the underside of the base, and I show a close up with the area circled in red. This area is not on an edge or remotely visible, nor does it degrade the integrity of the porcelain. The girl has a hole drilled on the underside of her dress, done by the modeler at the factory.
The style is similar to the production of the porcelain factories around Paris.
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