Saturday, June 7, 2014

Figure of the Day: A Victorian Fairing, 19th C.

German, 1887
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Fairings were so-called because they were given out as prizes and souvenirs at Victorian fairs. These porcelain trinkets were often made in Germany for the English market. Here’s another great example of a Nineteenth Century fairing.

The body of this piece is made of white porcelain which has been coated with a brilliant, shiny glaze. The base is typical of these objects—a moulded rectangle fitted with scrollwork at the reverse.

These objects often depicted comical scenes. The group here depicts two women in sporting dress, each on a bicycle. They are about to collide, prompting the caption:
A dangerous encounter. 
This fairing is marked :

'1887', 'OM', 'I'

Like most fairings, this one was made in Germany. Many German porcelain concerns had lines of inexpensive fairings, but certainly the most prolific was Conta and Boehme of Pössneck in Saxony.

The firm was established in 1790, specializing in small porcelain pieces such as dolls' heads and, from about 1855-1860, in these fairground trinkets. The subject matter of the figural groups varied from the most innocent (children, pigs, dogs, simple puns) to the frankly ribald (naughty frolics and dirty jokes). Sometimes, the figures would lampoon contemporary politics or society with caricatures or scenes which were considered timely or humorous. The ladies on their bicycles that we see here are demonstrative of that theme.

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