Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Home Beautiful: The Chelsea Turkish Table Figure, 1755

Chelsea Porcelain Factory, 1755
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the Eighteenth Century, in response to the popular dessert table figure groups made in France and Germany, Britain’s Chelsea Factory began making their own sets of porcelain figures designed to be brought out with the dessert course during a stylish meal in a wealthy household.

In Britain, in 1755, when this figure and its companions were made, porcelains depicting people in Turkish dress were highly fashionable.   The Meissen factory in Germany was the first to make porcelain figures of Turks. Those figures were quickly copied by the English porcelain factories in Staffordshire and Chelsea. The Chelsea porcelain factory copied the figure pictured here from a Meissen example modelled by Johann Friedrich Eberlein (1695-1749) in 1746.  This figure was part of a group meant for a dessert table.

Horace Walpole wrote of this decorative phenomenon in 1753 that displays of sugar plums and other confectionery had “long given way to harlequins, gondoliers, Turks, Chinese, and sheperdesses of Saxon china.”

This set is unique in that it wasn't just purely decorative, but useful.  The shell-shaped dishes attached to each figure would have served to hold candies, nuts or small pastries.

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