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Worcester Porcelain Company [1751-1862] (British, estab. Circa 1751, closed 1862)
Dr Wall period hexagonal lidded vase with Japanese style decoration
Circa 1770
poychrome soft paste porcelain
400 x 180 x 180 mm
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Given 1966 by Lady Hilda Owen
Unlike their contemporaries on the Continent, where royal and aristocratic patronage was the norm, 18th-century English porcelain manufactories relied to a large extent on the burgeoning merchant and middle classes to purchase their wares. Consequently the vast majority of English porcelain of this period is utilitarian, designed for daily use, usually with underglaze blue decoration or latterly transfer printed decoration. Worcester, the pre-eminent producers, created comparatively few luxurious made-for-display and designed-to-impress articles, but this hexagonal vase and domed cover belongs firmly in this category.
This ‘Old Japan’ pattern vase was inspired by the 17th-century Japanese Kakiemon porcelain first collected and displayed at Hampton Court by King William III and Queen Mary at the time of their accession in 1689 – the so-called Hampton Court vases. The hexagonal shape and domed cover is a faithful copy of the Japanese original. The onglaze painted polychrome enamel ho-ho birds and oriental style flowering foliage are Japanese inspired but the lavishly gilded blue ground ribs and the rouge-de-fer panels at the shoulder are purely European. Likely to have started life as one of a pair, the vase has an underglaze blue Chinese style square seal mark that identifies the production date as around 1760–1770.
The comparatively large size and the relative instability of the soapstone-based body of 18th-century Worcester porcelain meant that many of these slab-sided vases collapsed or shattered in the kiln.

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