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Putting some English on it…

Updated: Feb 16

The phrase to put “English on a ball” means to put a spin on it, and as a verb “English” can mean to Anglicize something. When it comes to ceramics, the two meanings often intersect, as in the case of the sauce tureen and undertray above.

The pattern on the tureen and undertray is known as “Tobacco Leaf” and is a well-known Chinese export porcelain design from the last third of the 18th century with many variations. An example of a Chinese export tobacco leaf plate is shown in the third photo.

The pieces shown in the first two photos are an English version made by Coalport circa 1810. While the design mimics the Chinese version, Coalport’s appears both more vibrant and more subtle .

At first glance the Coalport version merely looks like a copy of the Chinese version. All of the tobacco leaf elements are present – an overall asymmetrical pattern grounded by large leaves (which bear little resemblance to actual tobacco leaves) with a large flower and smaller flowers, vines, and leaves.

Coalport heightened the effect of the primary elements by using a much stronger yellow on the primary leaves and heavier gilding on their accents.

The Coalport secondary elements are in lighter hues. This can be seen in the second photo showing the reverse of the tureen.

The overall effect seems to give the Coalport version both more punch and more delicacy.

Pierre Debomy illustrates a similar tureen, in “Tobacco Leaf and Pseudo” at p. 271 in his chapter on “Inspired or Copied Patterns”.

I’ll be bringing this Coalport set with me to Antiques In Manchester – The Collectors Fair, August 9-10 at the Sullivan Arena of St. Anselm College.

R.J. Ruble

Ericsson Street Antiques

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