02 February 2016

Spode and Charles Ferdinand Hürten

*Monumental urn, cover and stand (gauge the size from the glimpse of an urn on a plinth, right
Regulars to this blog will know I love pots, flowers and botanical illustration. This blog, then, is sort of for myself! But I hope you will love to look at the work of the best ceramic floral artist in the business (probably) in the 2nd half of the 19th century.

Charles Ferdinand Hürten (1821/1822-1901) was a German artist who had been trained at Cologne and then later moved to Paris. He was noted for his superb fruit, flower and foliage painting and in about 1858** he was persuaded to come to work at the Spode factory which was then owned by W. T. Copeland. The images here feature flowers rather than fruit.
Round, convex plaque, study of roses
Hürten may have been the only artist to have his own studio at Spode but this is not certain. It is also thought he was allowed to paint freely on any type of ware. There are examples in the Spode museum collection of pieces ranging from large architectural and fireplace slabs; huge, elaborate exhibition pieces; saggar marl plaques and, at the other end of the scale, delicate flowers painted on the finest eggshell china (bone china which is so fine it resembles egg shell).
Vase exhibited at the International Exhibition, London 1862
Vase exhibited at the International Exhibition, London (detail)
He was also allowed to sign his work which was in great demand. Hürten was paid an annual salary. Often the artists were paid for each piece they painted known as 'piece work'. Interestingly he reported directly to a member of the Copeland family (see below), owners of the company, rather than a manager. Such was the demand for his wares that other artists were taught to paint in his style. A vase in the Spode museum collection was for many years attributed to him but then a volunteer pointed out that it was signed by F. W. Adams!
Vase, details of flowers, painted by Adams in the style of Hürten
A few years ago I carried out some research on Hürten and found further information from a number of sources. Copies of agreements between him and Spode, then owned by the Copeland family are in the Spode archive.

On 5th June 1860 an agreement was drawn up between

 '...Mr. William Taylor Copeland Manufacturer of China, Earthenware etc at Stoke upon Trent... represented by his son Mr. Alfred Copeland... and Mr. Charles Ferdinand Hürten, painter on china, in Paris... Article 1. Mr Hürten engages himself to start within thirty days to Stoke upon Trent to place himself at the order of Mr. Copeland as painter of fruits and flowers, to work in the manufactory of china under the superintendence of Mr. Copeland or his representative during all the days of work and at the hours used at the manufactory... from 8½ in the morning [8.30am] up to 6 o'clock at night with one hour's liberty during the daytime for the dinner as is the custom of the place... Art. 3. this engagement is to last for the period of five years... Art. 4. ... 1st: payment of £21... as indemnity for Mr. Hürten, himself, his family journey and moving expenses and payment of the same agreement again for his return after the expiration of the said five years... 2nd: Annual payment of £320... for wages payable per month every last day of the month...'

Copies of this agreement were in English and in French and witnessed by Alfred Copeland and Thomas Battam (Art Director); also by Victor Taglier for Hürten.

A similar agreement was drawn up in 1870 so Hürten obviously felt happy enough to remain in post after his initial five years. His salary increased to £350 per annum and the offer of payment of £21 remained if he chose to return to Paris. This time it was witnessed by Edward Capper Copeland and Will Lambert.
Pair of huge 'Forty Thieves' Jars
'Forty Thieves' Jar - detail of superb painting
'Forty Thieves' Jar - detail of signature, lower right of lilies
Correspondence in the Spode archive, donated by members of the family, reveals a little of Hürten's life. In 1860 Hürten ordered some pottery for his personal use at home and of course it came from Spode. The invoice from W. T. Copeland is dated September 26th 1860 and lists items such as '1 tobacco jar Rockingham Gold lines, 2 blue glaze matchpots Gilt, [outside the Spode archive matchpots are often called spill vases] 2 black glaze matchpots Gilt, 2 Statuary (now known as parian ware) Sleeping Children in Cot. Hürten spent £1. 2s. 3d (about £1. 11p). At the bottom of the invoice is a list of items given as 'a Present from Mr. Copeland'. This included 'a table service for 8 persons in Honeysuckle brown, Breakfast and Tea ware and toilet ware'. At this time Hürten was living in Penkhull Terrace - walking distance from the factory in Stoke. A note shows the bill was paid in October that year.

In 1864 one of the partners in the firm, Alfred Copeland, writes to Hürten from London: 'My Dear Mr. Hürten, Accept my best and heartiest thanks for your most splendid gift. It is the most beautiful specimen of the kind I think I ever saw and I assure you my wife and I shall greatly treasure it for the kind donor's sake. I never regret the day you and I became acquainted, and I trust you may still remain in Staffordshire with us for many years. I thank you again for the beautiful and delicate Déjeuner set you have given me...'

Writing again a year later in 1865 Alfred Copeland is excited by a vase arriving in London from Stoke: '...I cannot allow this week to close, without my acknowledging that the large Vase that has recently arrived from Stoke is truly magnificent, and we all, my father, Mr. Battam and myself are delighted with the result of your labours. I consider it the finest of your production and it does you infinite credit. You have grouped your flowers in beautiful variety and kept the colouring perfectly truthful and in good taste. The tone and feeling throughout is retained in every particular. I am pleased to say many good judges are surprised at this work and I am proud of it. I trust you are well and attempting to surpass... what you have already executed...'

Copies of letters from 1868-1871 from Hürten to members of his family in Germany are also in the Spode archive papers originally in German and translated into English. They are mainly about money, family illnesses and criticisms of lack of letters in return - just like any family! Hürten's daughter Emma married Lucien Besche another important Copeland artist. He painted a plaque of Hürten, dated January 1st 1878.
Hürten by Lucien Besche
The Spode museum holds many items painted by Hürten .Whilst working as curator at the museum I received enquiries about various items painted by Hürten - all are, without exception, superbly painted pieces. The only piece I ever saw which was poorly executed is in the Spode museum collection and was not of flowers but of a cat. Very few items are actually recorded in the archive as they were often specially commissioned, unlikely to be repeated, with no need for them to be entered in the pattern books. Order books and invoice records do not survive. Occasionally oil paintings by Hürten, unconnected with the firm, turn up. Just before I left the museum I came across a thin volume which contained records of the stock of the Spode Showroom. Inside I found details of pieces on display by 'Mr. Hürten in the glass case and on the table'. This type of record is rare in the Spode archive. What a prolific man Hürten was - proved by the long lists of pieces in this book and, rarer still, these entries were annotated with the firing dates for many of the items.

Dessert plate, Madrid shape fully pierced, CFH monogram below pink roses
Hürten's work was signed C. F. Hürten, CFH or C.F.H. and the company exhibited wonderful examples of it at various International Exhibitions including the Paris Exhibition in 1889 when he was in his 70th year. It is worth noting it is unusual to find his work unsigned - although often people try to attribute unsigned pieces to his hand.

He worked for Spode until the 1890s. Family sources have suggested the mid-1880s but I found sketches in an Original Sketch Book (collection no SMT 2000.287) which are dated 1887 as well as pieces he painted which are date marked 1892 such as a plaque featuring Marshal Neil roses.
Plaque, Marshal Neil roses (detail) 1892
One of the finest examples of Hürten's work is a dessert and tea service commissioned by the Prince of Wales on the occasion of his marriage to Princess Alexandra in 1863. The 196 piece service took about three years to complete. Hürten painted the orange blossom, fruit and flowers in the panels on the dessert plates with a linked AEW monogram in centre.
Dessert plate, Festoon Embossed shape, from service for Prince of Wales & Princess Alexandra 1863
Coffee saucer, from service for Prince of Wales & Princess Alexandra 1863
Other pieces in the Spode museum collection are large pressed vases, pierced desert wares, centrepieces, vases and plaques. Hürten painted wares for very many wealthy Spode customers including, as has been noted, royalty. One such customer was Mr. Macfarlane who had a new 'magnificent mansion' in Glasgow described in The Art Journal of 1875 '...the frieze of the heating room of the Turkish Baths, which was lined with tiles or plaques, was painted with tropical plants and flowers arranged in a masterly and effective manner....painted in sepia by Hürten...the whole of the plants represented are without exception studies from nature sketched and arranged for the purpose from the plants themselves in the magnificent conservatories of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire at Chatsworth...'
Round plaque painted with poppies
Vase, 18" high painted with roses
Slab painted with roses (detail) with full signature
Traditionally he is thought to have stayed at Copelands till c1897 and this seems more likely. He signed a special commemorative book for William Fowler Mountford Copeland in 1895 as the first signatory in the Painters & Gilders section and I noticed this was not in the Past Employees section.
Signature, commemorative book 1895
My research in the Spode archive has shown that not only was Hürten a superb artist and china painter he was also a designer. Evidence of his designs are in a book Prints Borders and Sprays dating from about 1867 (collection no. SMT 2000.143) and some of these went on to be developed into familiar patterns produced by transfer printing and therefore available to less wealthy customers. There are also some of his flower sketches in the archive in Original Sketch Books as well as patterns recorded in the pattern book which I believe were designed by him although not recorded as such.
Tray painted with dandelions and grasses c1865
There is no doubt that the Spode company under the Copeland family, by employing Hürten, moved into another dimension with the quality of their wares which were already famous, sought-after and award winning. Hürten, and the other premier artists, employed by the company all had their own specialism sometimes working together on one piece. Not only were they skilful as painters but their knowledge of ceramic colours, which did not show their true colour until after firing, and their ability to paint in stages, as each different colour was fired at a different temperature, means their abilities are often underestimated.

*All painted by Hürten unless otherwise stated
**As mentioned in 'Spode & His Successors' by Hayden. I found that the earliest written record in the Spode archive papers suggests 1860.

Compiled and researched by Pam Woolliscroft, with thanks to Robert Copeland and the Spode archive.

10 January 2016

Spode and Vietnamese Limepots

Copeland & Garrett Vietnamese limepot, pattern B593 c1839
Sometimes pots confuse. Something is so far removed from the present, a use long forgotten; or strays from the usual, or has simply never been seen before, that it can only be described temporarily as a 'mystery pot'.

So the title of this post is very specific. But then the object in question is very specific. For many years when these objects turned up (which they did rarely) no one knew what they were. And no research seems to have been done, but horror of horrors, just guesswork. I think it is fair to say that, even people who perhaps should have known better, began to invent uses for this mysterious object and, frustratingly, went into publication with bizarre ideas such as doorstop and wig warmer...!

In 2002, whilst I was working as curator at the Spode museum, Kerry Nguyen Long -  a specialist researcher from Australia - contacted me with an enquiry. She asked if I could date a limepot for her. I was sure I could from the pattern and marks on the pot. However I had absolutely no idea what a limepot. So began a satisfying swap of information between two enthusiastic researchers across the world.
Copeland & Garrett Vietnamese limepot, pattern B466 c1838
The limepot in question was made during the Copeland & Garrett ownership of the Spode company between 1833 and 1847. Using the pattern books in the Spode archive I eventually identified this limepot as decorated in pattern number B466 which was a design first recorded in about 1838. The border is known as Chevron border which is found in conjunction with other designs and in many colour versions. I found no reference to the limepot shape or name in the Spode archive. Nor were there any customer records for this period which could shed any light on such a specialist order.

Thanks to Kerry Nguyen-Long, expert on and researcher into limepots, her enquiry enabled me to quiz her in return about the definition of a limepot. This particular one she contacted me about was in a private collection and included in a special exhibition at the Museum of Vietnamese History in Ho Chi Minh City a few years ago.

Prompted by my curiosity, Kerry kindly described its use. The limepot is a container for slaked lime. Approximately 1/3 of crushed lime is put into the pot with 1/3 water. The remaining space at the top allows for effervescence. The lime is removed with a little spatula, when required, to make a 'quid'. Kerry told me that chewing a quid is part of social custom in Southeast Asia. The lime is one of several ingredients in the quid.

Searching the web I found the following:

'a quid consists of four materials: an areca leaf (sweet taste), betel bark (hot taste), a chay root (bitter taste), and hydrated lime (pungent taste). Old health books claim that 'chewing betel and areca nut makes the mouth fragrant, decreases bad tempers, and makes digesting food easy.

A quid of betel makes people become closer and more open-hearted. At any wedding ceremony, there must be a dish of betel and areca nut, which people can share as they joy the special occasion. During festival or Tet Holidays, betel and areca nut is used for inviting visitors and making acquaintances. Sharing a quid of betel with an old friend is like expressing the gratitude for the relationship. A quid of betel and areca nut makes people feel warm on cold winters days, and during funerals, it relieves the sadness. Betel and areca nuts are also used in offerings. When Vietnamese people worship their ancestors, betel and areca nut must be present at the altar. Nowadays, the custom of chewing betel remains popular in some Vietnamese village and among the old.'
'A betel kit' from VOV World Service. Can you spot the limepot?
Kerry told me that whilst each community had its own set of implements, only the Kinh Vietnamese had this type of closed pot. She also said that it was unusual to find Western limepots and emphasised that the design followed the Vietnamese shape. Vietnamese potters made them in all sizes and in all manner of variations but always incorporating the basic closed pot shape for many hundreds of years.

Some were also made in China for a short period, these were all blue and white, and some of these are in the same shape as the Copeland & Garrett limepot as are locally made ones. Some locally made pots were in bronze and rare ones are in silver.
Betel kit exhibit in the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology - Hanoi, Vietnam.
Kerry wondered if the limepots were made after the East India Company trade mission of Crawfurd & Finlayson in 1821-1822. They had to wait for invitation to the Court and passed their time making daily excursions ashore. They '…seldom passed through a village without being invited into some house or another, and requested to partake of tobacco and betel'. Finlayson also makes references to the custom. (Finlayson accompanied Crawfurd, the leader of the East India Company mission to Siam and Vietnam as medical officer and naturalist.)

When I was Editor of the Spode Society's 'Review' in 2002, I published some of what is here. At the time Kerry commented: 'I know of very few of these British made pots. I only know of two Chevron design pots, but of course there may be more - I have been looking hard!' I wonder if she ever found any more.

Copeland & Garrett limepots are rare but you can find images and information about them on the web these days. Another researcher with whom I corresponded at a later date was Philippe Truong. His post HERE > has some great information and images.

All the limepots I have seen from the Spode factory are from the Copeland & Garrett period of ownership (1833-1847). They are decorated with B patterns which was a series of patterns where all the decoration - both printed outline and hand colouring - was executed underglaze.

Copeland & Garrett Vietnamese limepot, pattern B580 c1839
There are several articles and books, including the recently published  'Arts of Viet Nam 1009-1945', by Kerry on Vietnamese ceramics; and you can find a link to one of her articles on limepots here> from Arts of Asia. Also do a general web search on limepots (and lime pots) for interesting results.

Acknowledgements and thanks to Kerry Nguyen-Long for solving the mystery and awakening my curiosity as well as being happy to share and swap information; and likewise to Philippe Truong who contacted me a few years later on the same subject.

01 January 2016

Spode in January

January - 1 of a set of 12 tiles depicting months of the year
This lovely tile, representing the month of January, was made by the Spode company under the ownership of W. T. Copeland & Sons in the late 1800s. It is printed and then I think it is lightly coloured in blue by hand. The same design was also produced, using the same copper plate, but in a coloured version which was beautifully painted by hand over the print: the head dress in bright yellow, 'doublet' in scarlet and fabulous 'hose' in yellow and pale blue stripes.

At this period, as well as Months of the Year subjects, other designs for tiles were produced which depicted Seasons of the Year, Nursery Rhymes, scenes from Robin Hood, Shakespearean scenes and many more. Tiles were made by the company from the late 1700s until the end of the 20th century but the peak was in the second half of the 1800s. The designs began to be recorded in a separate set of pattern books, known as the Tile Books, from about 1840 rather than, as previously, dotted amongst the records of tea, dinner, dessert ware, toilet ware and ornamental ware.
A Tile Book I photographed before conservation work in 2006
Designs were also specially commissioned by various customers and for manufacturers of fireplaces. Students of tile history are particularly fortunate to have these records preserved in the Spode archive as well as, unusually, some of the original artwork signed by the artists.

'Left over' tiles used to cover stillages when a clay cellar was converted into wine cellar
The Spode factory is for some reason often forgotten when tiles are being identified. How many say 'Look at the lovely Minton tiles' when looking at old tiles on the wall of a building or beneath their feet? It is not possible always to see the back of the tile to look for a backstamp when it is in situ but as well as the fabulous tiles from Minton, there were other manufacturers who made beautifully designed and high quality tiles. One of these was Spode. In fact when it came to very large tiles, known as slabs, Spode, under the Copeland ownership, was the best.

Next time you see some gorgeous tiles beneath your feet or set into a frieze, consider for a moment, could they be from the Spode factory?

You can see more about tiles by going to my Spode ABC and look under T.