24 April 2013

Spode and Italian...with added colour

On a recent visit to Lyme Regis, Dorset, on a glorious (and rare this year) warm, spring sunny day, you would think that the sparkling seascape, the cliffs, the birds, the Jane Austen associations, the Cobb, the architecture, and town would be enough. But I spot an Antiques Centre a step away from the beach. A quick peek around the door and, wonderful, it is FULL OF POTS!

It may come as a surprise but I do not collect Spode. It should come as no surprise, though, that I do love pots so in we went. Half way round, amongst the Aladdin's cave interior, was one small section with a pile of blue transfer printed plates stacked high at the bottom of a glass-fronted cupboard. Near the bottom, just peeping out, I recognised the edge of a Spode pattern. It was the border of Italian pattern but with added red and gold. I think I have only ever seen this pattern as a paper record in the Spode pattern books and in a photograph. Never 'in the flesh'.

When my hyper-ventilating stops, I fetch the manager, who infinitely slowly finds the key and picks up a pile of beautiful plates and plonks them before me. I nonchalantly sort through waiting for the Spode beauty to appear. And it is indeed a beauty. Pristine condition. Light as a feather, with a familiar silky smooth glaze and crisply marked with fine Spode backstamps.

Nearly 200 years old and as new.

The lightness of Spode's pearlware, a type of earthenware, always surprises me. The high quality of Spode's production is embodied in this dessert plate. Transfer printed in blue, glazed with that silky smooth glaze, hand-coloured in red and then gilded. This is a piece which would have gone through 4 or 5 firings. It has pattern number 2614 of about 1818, often mentioned in books as the earliest record of the Italian pattern from which its introduction is dated, but omitting the fact that it is gorgeously coloured.

Aimed at the well-to-do customer, it is just one piece from a dessert service, which must have shimmered in candlelight when laid out all those years ago.

And yes I did buy it...