THERE are collectors, or perhaps I should say there are persons, who would be glad to be collectors if they could find some class of objects which would not take too much space to house, nor too much money to buy. They would not mind if the acquisition of their treasures was slow and difficult if, when found, each object was a joy and a delight.
"Cottage Ornaments," as they were called, fills such a want; and as many of them have histories, or were made in connection with some event of importance in England, there is much agreeable study connected with an intelligent grasp of the subject.
Tliese small ornaments were made by the early potters to serve as mantel decorations; and while figures of great worth and beauty were put out by such famous potteries as Bow, Derby, Chelsea, Plymouth, and from the German, French, and Copenhagen factories as well, it is with the Staffordshire products chiefly that I pro pose to deal.
These earthenware figures were made not alone in Staffordshire, but at Leeds, Bristol, Fulham, Liver pool, Newcastle, and Sunderland, Swansea, Caughley,, and several other places; but they are all classed under the head of Staffordshire.As they are generally quaint in their old-fashioned style and strong colouring, they are interesting as giving pictures of the costume, man ners, and customs they were put out. of the time when Many of them deal with homely, every- day subjects; and when in pairs it was the fashion to have a man and a woman as seen in the pretty dairyman and may be milkmaid which are given in Figure 321. These are of the old creamy colour which is so characteristic of bone paste, and, as is also common with this class of figures in a cheaper grade, there is a sparing use of colour in the figures themselves, although the bases are made to represent green grass and a brook which runs blue water. The milkmaid has a pretty little pattern on the bottom of her rjetticoat, in that rich, dark shade of blue which is ever such a favourite with the potters, and the hair of both is brown. As you hold in your hands the satiny paste, note its extreme lightness, and feel how smooth the bottom is worn with frequent movings when the shelf was dusted, you do not mind that there is not much colour, and thank your stars that you happened along in time to secure and thatit, it was absolutely perfect. In answer to correspondents in both this country and England as to what my special is hobby, will now admit that itStaffordshire Ornaments, and when you I is have had the pleasure of gathering a dozen or two of these treasures you will admit that the hobby is one which is full of pleasurable surprises. The earliest of these figures, and a kind which it is almost impossible to find in this country, were made of a coarse pottery and covered with slip and then deco rated. Indeed it is hard to secure such even in England, for while it is true that this branch of pottery has not attracted many private collectors till recently, it has been in demand by museums, and it is generally in repositories such as these that you run across these queer y old pieces. To tell the truth many of them are too grotesque to be attractive, particularly the cats and oaat1s which were such favourites.
The salt glaze are as rare as the slip figures, but there are many museum figures which may be studied. I have seen them with both single and double figures, a f avourite type being two lovers sitting under a tree and holding hands. These salt glaze figures have no colour, and have the curiously pitted surface like an orange peel, which is a marked feature of this ware. There are several collections of salt glaze figures in England, those of Mr. Willet and Dr. Sidebotham being pecul iarly full of interesting specimens. These figures are generally small, colourless the eyes, which are representedas has been stated, except by round bead-like dots r of black or brown, giving a very startling effect. Many of the salt glaze figures are charming, since they are usually modelled by hand, the prettiest which I have seen being the seated figure of a boy, drawing a thorn from his foot. The figure is quite perfect, though tiny, as it is only three and seven-eighths inches high.
Marbled figures, called " Astbury marbled figures," are quite as rare as the salt glaze, particularly in this country. They were produced frequently in two-col- oured clays, with the same beady eyes as the salt glaze ones, but they have a softness of colouring and a smoothness of feel to the touch that is most attractive. These figures were first made in about 1743 by the elder Astbury, and then by his son Thomas, and prob ably by other potters as well.
Thomas Wheildon, aaIio potted about 1750 and made mottled and agate ware, also put out many different figures, busts, officers on horseback, a man and woman on a horse, she seated on a pillion, and many dogs. If you find any of these figures in this country, set it straightway in the centre of your collection, let no pro fane hand dust it, and keep it as long as you can. I know one such dog, seated on a fine green cushion, but alas he is not mine; he was far too costly for my collec tion. Like the other styles mentioned, these mottled figures were made at other potteries, and their harmony of colouring, soft browns and yellows, allways made them attractive. Busts of Milton, fourteen inches high, the " Market Girl," Alderman Beckford, and several groups are all fine and eagerly sought by collectors.
In order to give some idea of what prices the choicer figures from the celebrated old potteries are worth, I will give a few figures showing the prices which they have brought at auction sale within the last f ew months at London. " A Chelsea figure of Lord Cambden, £3 . A pair of figures, Derby, shepherd and shepherdess, £63." In February, 19 4, the collection of a Mr. Kidd, who had been collecting for fifty years, came under the hammer in London. Among many hundreds of examples I take the following: " Seated figure of a lady holding a basket in her lap, two lambs at her feet, richly decorated scroll, Chelsea, nine inches high, £21." "Pair of statuettes, shepherdess and shepherd, richly coloured, Chelsea, eleven inches high, £38 17*."
The Staffordshire figures run much lower, of course, the range of prices within my oaa-h experience going from thirty-five cents for a tiny group of two children, to seventy-five dollars for a six inch bust of Shakes peare, one of the rare and fine ones by Wood, beauti fully modelled and coloured, and in perfect condition.
The choicer china and porcelain figures are no more artistic and pretty than the pottery ones from Stafford shire. The mode of manufacture was the same, for when the figure came from the mould in the fresh paste, it went into the hands of the " repairer " as he was called, the head was stuck on, as were the legs, arms, dogs, lambs, vases, and other accessories, the lines of the drapery were sharpened up, the colouring applied which covered many defects, and then the object was glazed. This glazing destroyed many of the finer lines by filling them up. and in many of the examples which I have it can be seen that only certain colours were applied under glaze. — vivid orange, apple-green, pink, all of them favourite colours, being applied over glaze. Sir Charles Napier shows plainly that he was cast in a mould, for the lines of the edges show clearly (see Fig ure 322 . The oldest figures are hollow throughout and are open) at the base; those that have a closed base ^=* allways have a hole in them somewhere. Sir Charles has it in the middle of his back.
That collector of Staffordshire avIio aims to have his collection as choice as possible, will tell you that these figures are roughly divided into two periods, the Early and the Victorian. He speaks with much contempt of the latter. The Early pieces were made by such potters as the Woods, Ralph, Aaron and Enoch, Wood and Caldwell, Neal, Voyez, who at one time worked for Wedgwood, Wedgwood himself, Wheildon, Walton, Adams, Lakin and Poole, Wilson, Bott and Co., Turner, Edge and Grocott, Hall, Salt and I. Dale, and many others. Besides the pastoral groups which were made, there were many religious and classical as well as domestic subjects. The marked specimens are exceed ingly rare, since it seems to have been the general custom not to mark them.