Tea bowl and saucer

ARTIST / MAKER: Worcester porcelain factory (manufacturer)
DATE: ca. 1758 (made)
PLACE: Worcester (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Soft-paste porcelain transfer printed with black enamel

The Worcester porcelain factory was established in 1751 by Dr. John Wall and a group of local businessmen. The factory became renowned for its production of smaller items such as tea wares, which were created largely for the middle class. The teawares produced by the factory, such as this tea bowl and saucer, were ideally suited to their function because the clay from which they were made was strengthened with soapstone which meant they would not crack when filled with hot water. The period from which Worcester was established, until its acquisition by Thomas Flight in 1783, is known as the First Worcester period, during which time this tea bowl and saucer were produced. The Worcester factory was the first in England to employ the method of transfer printing onto porcelain on a commercial scale, a technique which can be seen on this example. This method consisted of a ‘pull’ being taken from an inked plate, which was then transferred onto tissue paper and subsequently the body of the object before being fired in the kiln. A more complex printing method of this type involved the use of oil and a pad of rubber-like glue which enabled the image to curve around vessels such as teapots. This bowl and saucer are decorated with a ‘Les Garcons chinois’ pattern in grisaille, a scene which was inspired by the engravings of French artist Jean-Baptiste Pillement, who created fanciful rococo scenes and chinoiserie-inspired landscapes. A teapot with the same pattern but in polychrome, is in the V&A (museum number 414:609/&A-1885).