Saturday, January 28, 2012

Porcelains: Rose Gold Minton China

One of the my favorite quotes, frequently said by the Marqués de Sant’Ana is: “Furniture makes us comfortable, Art makes us worldly…BUT, porcelain makes us civilized!” (first uttered by the disgraced former Sothebys CEO Dedee Brooks).  I can’t think of any else that is more true than that! Can you? 

As you know dahhling I have a bit of obsession with porcelain, particularly dinnerware.  But not only for fine bone china, Limoges and the like, as you might assume, but instead I like all types of porcelain & do not discriminate.  From high to low I have found great examples of pieces that make beautiful table settings and to me that is the fundamental purpose of buying them.  For I am not one that simply collects anything for the pleasure of looking at it…rather I like buying things no matter their value that I will use & reuse while I am alive.  Inheritance for others be damned!

I always say, it is a new discovery of a set of dinnerware that inspires a luncheon, an afternoon té, a sit down dinner, even plates that I can use for aperitifs for an afternoon cocktail!  The pattern of a porcelain piece, the color, the shape of the plates helps to build a menu, based on the quantities of the pieces, a guest list is drawn and soon enough an event has been planned.

To this end I want to begin sharing with you some of my latest finds as well as my finds from years past & the events they have inspired or the ones they soon will….  
The first set is one I found at our always chic & unique shop: “The Paris Market” not too long ago, a set for 12 of Minton China pattern: Gold Rose (H4680).  The set included both the soup bowls & the consome toureens, salad & dinner plates, as well as cups & saucers. I have not "officially" unveiled it by using it to entertain, but I pulled them out of storage to set a table for you dahhlings. 
I like the way the gold & the blue and white chinoiserie vases look and of course anything looks wonderful with a preserved evergreen as part of the design. The patterned was introduced in 1939, the design  had a wide gold band and fanciful gold rose in the center on a white swirl blank.  It was discontinued in 1970.  My set has the markings of Minton's Crown and Globe back stamp and artists marks that date it from 1939 to 1950.  

As close to perfection as this set was it did not come with 12 salad plates, but instead only came with 10.  Sometime last year I found 4 matching salad plates in a little antique store off the Garden path, they were too pretty to pass up for the price & I decided that one day I could use them for a little lunch for 4....however I found that they were instead perfect to "stand in" if you will, to make up for the lack of salad plates for my Rose Gold Minton set! 

I don't think you can tell the difference, and for those dinners when you want everything to look as a set, voila!

I know you already know dahhling that Minton was originally founded by Thomas Minton who was born in Shrewsbury, England in 1765. His family were keen collectors of porcelain and he commenced work as an apprentice with the celebrated engraver Robert Hancock at the Caughley Works in Shropshire and then with the equally renowned Thomas Turner. He moved to London to become a Master Engraver and was commissioned to do work for Josiah Spode who then had a warehouse in London. Around 1788, Minton decided to move from London to Stoke-on-Trent where he continued to work as an engraver for Thomas Whieldon, the first partner of Wedgwood and for the Adams brothers.

Thomas Minton was determined to become a potter and purchased land and built a modest factory in about 1792 with two ovens, a slip house and accommodation, and the factory started to produce wares about three years later. His need for expert assistance resulted in his engaging the brothers Samuel and Joseph Poulson; Samuel was a modeller and Joseph a trained potter. This led to Joseph Poulson becoming a partner in 1796. They were soon joined in partnership by a Liverpool merchant William Pownal who helped provide capital to develop the business. The firm predominantly produced transfer printed earthenware dinner and tea services using superior earthenware stone china, opaque china, and feldspar china while bone china goods were introduced with great success in 1798.

Thomas Minton became sole proprietor in 1809. He took his sons Herbert and Thomas into partnership in 1817 although Thomas left soon after to become a priest. Herbert quickly contributed to the firm’s success and became its driving force. The firm expanded their tableware lines in 1824 to include various products directed to the decorative luxuries market. The company produced fine hand-painted porcelain and industrial-strength tiles for stately homes and churches. Thomas Minton died in 1836 and control fell entirely to Herbert Minton. He took John Boyle into partnership to manage the commercial side but they did not agree on future directions and the partnership was dissolved in 1841, Boyle moving to Wedgwood. In 1847, Minton succeeded in producing a new unglazed marble-like china called 'Parian' which was highly suitable for figures. The firm attracted the celebrated French ceramic artist and chemist Leon Arnoux, and several English and foreign sculptors joined to design Parian ware.

Herbert had two young nephews, Michael Daintry Hollins and Colin Minton Campbell and they entered the business in 1840 and 1848 respectively. Hollins became responsible for the tile-making side of the business which became Minton Hollins & Co. Herbert Minton died in 1858 and control of the main business passed to Colin Minton Campbell.

The most renowned of the firm’s artists in modern times was John Wadsworth who worked with Minton’s from 1901 until he died in 1955. His crowning glory was the great vase designed to commemorate the Coronation of the Queen. From the mid-1890s, Minton's made major contributions to Art Nouveau ceramics with slip-trailed majolica ware designed by Wadsworth and Leon Solon. Minton released several Art Deco designs in the 1920s but the firm was hard hit by the Great Depression particularly for sales of luxury designs. Minton halted production of dinnerware in 1939 because the company’s resources were needed to help the war effort. The post-war period saw a revival of the firm’s fortunes. The Minton factory in the centre of Stoke was rebuilt and modernized after the Second World War by the then Managing Director J E Hartill, a great-great-great grandson of Thomas Minton.

Early earthenware and pre-1805 porcelains appear to be unmarked. After that, there were various marks reflecting the different owners prior to the introduction of the standard Minton marks of today.

Here are some of the back stamps which may help you identify your very own Minton:

Some Minton ware bears impressed marks which indicate the date of manufacture:

I am fascinated by the hidden story of every new porcelain purchase. How did it make it intact all these years to the present? How did it arrive to this particular place where I found it from the time it was made? more often than not in a completely different continent....Do you have a favorite Minton pattern in your collection dahhling?
Until soonest…

The Duchess of State

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Noble Hardee Mansion…

There is a beautiful, palatial and very dilapidated mansion overlooking one of the most famous squares in the garden: Monterrey Square, originally built as a double house in 1860 in the Italianate style that at first sight will leave you wanting to see more.  From outside you have no idea of just how different the outside from the inside is, until you walk through the doors and discover all at once some of the most beautiful & grand antiques (if mostly buried under inches of dust & plaster) for sale in the garden and also one of the most dilapidated interiors.

The interior ceiling plaster work is lying everywhere over the furniture, the paint is flaking or non existant and more windows have broken glass in the back verandas than not, many parts of the floors feel as though any minute might send you down to the ballroom below and yet, one cannot stop exploring room after room… Alex Raskin Antiques has been in operation in this magnificent mansion for over 25yrs.  You would be hard pressed to find any home of La Sociedad, The Noblesse or anyone in between that having an established home in the garden does not either have one or many pieces from this wondrous decaying place or covets one daily!

It is a place anyone who visits the garden must see, but more importantly it is a place from where everyone should own something from, after all they just don’t make them like this anymore. Don’t forget to bring a duster with you!

So don’t say I never gave you anything dahhling…
Until soonest.

The Duchess of State

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Indian Dinner Party

During this beginning New Year, I recently was reminiscing on past beginnings of old friendships and in one in particular....
I had scantly settled in the first week into my new petit grand appartement before I had received various gracious invitations by my neighbors across Oglethorpe Square to dine with them during the first days. Never mind, la Doña had personally come to my flat after the movers had left & insisted on helping unpack all the contents of the kitchen!

Circa 1999
La Doña, our very own Jackie O, who beyond looking a lot like her, had all the sensibilities, personality & refined elegant manner of a grand lady. Although considering she had been born & bred in Buenos Aires, Argentina it would seem more apropos that she would be our Jackie A ¿no? She had been married a few months before I met her to a wonderful man from a grand family with an ancient blue blood name.   He was an established member of La Sociedad and she, an instant hit during her first appearance at the Annual Historic Foundation Gala that year.  I had not attended that evening, but the next day all the talk was about this Argentinean Jackie O.  We met soon after over an Afternoon Cocktail at a mutual friend’s house and became instant friends, which believe me dahhling rarely ever happens.  But being so different in temperament & personality we did not have the tarantulas in a box moment I usually have with some of my closest & dearest.

View of Oglethorpe Square. Circa 1999
Hence why by the time I had moved into my petit grand appartement she was ever so gracious.  So with that in mind by the end of the first week , before paint had been chosen for the walls, all items unpacked or art hung, I decided to show both my appreciation & mutual interesting in solidifying our fledging friendship by hosting a sit down dinner for seven.

The best parties it is said, are the ones you plan the least, an although to some extent I  can see why this is such a popular saying, I am sure they don’t mean that a little less planning does not mean any less attention to the details.   At the end of the day I suppose what is important is to sincerely extend your hand of friendship by small tokens, such as dinner parties.  For what is more intimate than entertaining at home?

Although I don’t particularly like serving “buffet” style (the horror!) for a sit down dinner and certainly not for such a small group in this case based on the condition of my household it seemed the most sensible(yes dahhling I have been known to be sensible, though I try to avoid it at all cost!). I choose an Indian Dinner theme because I had the number to a wonderful local restaurant that did not mind catering a small group and I knew that Jackie A was partial to this type of cuisine.

As for dahhhling Jackie A, she proved to be a fascinating person whose illustrious family I had the pleasure to meet during one of their international golfing tours (she came from a large family consisting of 5 sisters & several more brothers).  One of her sisters had a series of published books on Argentinean Cuisine while another was famous for her horticulture books, together they were known as the “Argentinean Martha Stewarts”.  The rest were involved in the family Haciendas were they raised prized cattle which was mostly sold in the finest restaurants all over the country.  Jackie A, had spent many years living abroad in the French Alps and upon her return to Buenos Aires had met her husband which is how she came to our petit Garden.

And although we enjoyed many years of friendship & many FAB events, for Jackie A entertained in her chic and relaxed manner almost as much as I did, eventually the meddling of the Magpies's jealous venomous tongue got the best of us both.  It has been years since I have seen Jackie A, but I am sure where ever she is in the Garden she is doing just FAB. 
Until soonest…

The Duchess of State
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