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Bow China Works (British, estab. Circa 1747, closed Circa 1776), Manufacturer
Figure of Earth
Circa 1760
polychrome soft paste porcelain
280 x 130 x 130 mm
7-1950
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Purchased 1950 from the Collinson bequest.
The London china factory of Bow, which produced soft paste porcelain from 1744 to 1766, was the first in England to introduce the inclusion of bone ash, which later became (and still is) a standard ingredient in English bone china.
A significant part of the factory’s production was devoted to porcelain figures. The prototypes for many of these figures were those produced in Germany at Meissen, which had enjoyed a virtual monopoly until the secrets of porcelain manufacture began to be unravelled in England in the late 1740s. Single figures were occasionally produced but more often than not figures were produced as pairs or as sets. Hence Harlequin is often accompanied by Columbine or the Sailor by his Lass.
The more adventurous sets comprised of a number of figures – the five senses, the four seasons, the four sciences, the four quarters of the globe and the four arts. This Bow figure is from the set of four elements. She is Cybele, the Phrygian earth goddess, complete with lion couchant and a cornucopia filled with fruit and flowers symbolising earth. The companion figures are Neptune beside a dolphin symbolising water, Vulcan beside a flaming urn symbolising fire and Juno beside an eagle symbolising air.
These sets of figures were manufactured from moulds and the component parts changed along with fashion. The earlier sets are characterised by plain mound bases but the later sets have highly sculpted Rococo scroll bases, as seen here. Modelled in the round, they can be viewed successfully from all angles. Initially they were intended as amusing diversions on a dining table, not as mantelpiece ornaments, which were a later development, resulting in flat-backed figures.

not on view

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