An extremely rare and very fine Pair of Chelsea Green and Red Indian Paroquets

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An extremely rare and very fine Pair of Chelsea Parrots Taken directly from the Enlightenment Publication ‘A Natural History of Uncommon Birds’, published by George Edwards. Each bird beautifully modelled with tightly closed wings painted in tones of green and blue with puce detailing, with a red crested head, perched upon an irregularly moulded leafy tree branch, the branch painted in a pale green wash and the leaves in tones of green, blue, purple and yellow.

Circa 1749-52

Taken directly from The Natural History of Uncommon Birds, Vol. 1 Plate 6. 1743. The title of the original plate is ‘The Smallest Green and Red Indian Parakeet’. This pair would appear to be the only naturalistically coloured pair to be recorded. Another pair formerly in the Collection of Lady Charlotte Schreiber and sold at Sotheby’s 12th December 1946 to Judge Irwin Untermyer, now in the Metropolitan Museum New York, not naturalistically coloured. A single model in the collection of MFAB and a single privately owned UK Collection formerly the John Hewett Collection. The colouring of the leaves on these examples should be compared with the enamelling on the leaves of some ‘teaplant’ moulded pieces. Probably decorated outside the manufactory perhaps in the London Workshop of William Duesbury. Edwards describes the bird as represented of its proper size. When reading the text it is clear that the enameller has also read the text for the colouring is exactly as described even under the tail which is described in the bool as coloured blue. ‘This bird’, Edwards says, ‘was brought from Holland, in spirits, by Dr Cromwell Mortimer, Secretary to the Royal Society, who brought it there with other things brought from some Dutch Settlement in the East Indies’. So great an effort has been made to match the colouring specifically to the natural description of the bird that it can be suggested that this may have been a commission from an Ornithologist such as the people listed as owners of the birds in Edwards’ Volumes.
See; Nature, Porcelain and Enlightenment and the Birds and Creatures of Chelsea Porcelain by Paul N. Crane, St. James’s, London.
The concept of Nature, Porcelain and Enlightenment and the Birds and Creatures of Chelsea Porcelain, takes its inspiration from porcelain manufactured during the Age of Enlightenment in Europe within the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During this period of manufacture there is a gathering together of pieces most of which are functional but some decorative and ornamental. Most of these pieces therefore become part of the daily use of the aristocratic and royal households at that time. They are also inspired by a natural yearning to question and learn from the scientific breakthroughs and new understandings, which categorise this period of learning and discovery. Exploration and science, both essentially funded by the ruling classes, now began to go hand in hand with new styles that were to capture the imagination of artists, sculptors, modellers and their patrons of the period. This led to a transformation of the theatrical baroque into a new and natural rococo style that endorsed man’s triumph over nature. Europe in the mid eighteenth century was riveted by an insatiable appetite for knowledge, exploration and discovery. This forged a new scientific approach, which was to spearhead the Age of the Enlightenment. Through new eminent publications, science and nature became the pinnacle of taste and fashion amongst the aristocracy, who decorated their homes with this organic natural force
of life. The birth of English porcelain in London in the mid 1740s, developed by Nicholas Sprimont and Charles Gouyn at the Chelsea manufactory, provided an unparalleled opportunity for enlightenment and the arts to fuse together. The examples illustrated in my lecture beautifully illustrate that the new ‘natural rococo’ style developed at Chelsea was an invention that patiently recreated animals and birds that were modelled or drawn from the life. These natural recreations filled the eighteenth century home with a totally reinvented Cabinet of Nature’s Curiosity. The Ornithological forms (1) The Arabian Bustard & Chelsea raised anchor c.1749-52 manufactured at Chelsea between the years 174955 introduced a natural energy that was to grow throughout the repertoire of design and form which culminates to reach its zenith in the contemporary sale catalogue of items manufactured at the Chelsea Porcelain Manufactory in the spring of 1755 when the porcelain made in the previous year was sold. The village of Chelsea was sited outside of the city of London and placed on the banks of the river Thames thus the soil was extremely fertile being rich alluvial deposits. In the mid eighteenth century this area was a network of nurseries for trees, which were depositories for seedlings brought back from foreign scientific exploration abroad. There were also market gardens for the production of every kind of vegetable and fruit needed for the hungry environs of London. Sir Hans Sloane, the great long lived naturalist, lived at Cheyne Manor and leased the area of the Physic garden to the Royal Society of Apothecaries in perpetuity. This was to bring the natural force of energy to bear upon the recreation of a series of birds, collected on the whole by the large group of birdmen that lived in London and its village environs at the time. The man who was responsible for this translation of the interest in ornithology into Chelsea porcelain models (2) George Edwards by Joseph Dandridge was George Edwards 1695-1773. Known as the ‘Father of ornithology’, George Edwards, is commemorated in the Chelsea models which are directly copied in every detail from his great publication of ‘A Natural History of Uncommon Birds, and of Some Other Rare and Undescribed Animals’, the first volume published in 1743, the second in 1747, the third in 1750 and the fourth in 1751, published and printed at the Royal College of Physicians, where Edwards had been appointed Librarian on the recommendation of Sir Hans Sloane. Edwards visited Hans Sloane on a weekly basis and it is easy to see that the relationship was one of pupil and mentor. Sir Hans Sloane had, during and after his travels, collected an astonishing array of (3) Chinese Cock Pheasant & Chelsea raised anchor c.1749-52 natural specimens, the dried and preserved
examples we now see in the Enlightenment Galleries of the British Museum and the Natural History Museum. He also had collected a good many live specimens of birds and animals, which were kept in a Menagerie at Cheyne Manor. It was here that Edwards recorded and sketched many of the examples that we see in the four Volumes that make up the Natural History of Uncommon Birds, which in part he dedicated to Sir Hans Sloane and in part to God. The (4) The Great White Owl & Chelsea red anchor period c.1752-55 Volumes provided Nicholas Sprimont and his gifted modellers with a raft of different and new natural models to recreate in porcelain; a living series of birds and animals that had grasped the interest of the ruling classes now translated into the new and novel material of porcelain. These porcelain examples are modelled to an astonishingly high degree of natural accuracy and show of course that Chelsea had access to his volumes. They provided a natural source of examples, recently recorded and (5) Blue Creeper and Yellow Headed Titmouse & Chelsea c.1749-52 modelled from life, that perfectly captured the imagination of the new scientifically minded aristocracy and its quest for enlightened knowledge. The images that I showed in the lecture encompass all examples that were taken from these vividly illustrated ‘Nature Inspired’ volumes, a selection are illustrated here. The models are slip cast on the whole and luted onto a supporting base that is appropriate for the model that it ultimately supports. Most of the models are marked with the stamped and applied mark of the second period of the Chelsea manufactory, the oval ‘raised anchor mark’. The models are nearly all (6) The Whip-poor-will & Chelsea raised anchor c.1749-52 given the colouration that they are depicted with inside each of the volumes. Some are left in the white but still on these rare examples there sometimes can be found some traces of ‘cold colour’ showing that these too were once vividly coloured, perhaps with the changing colours of the birds’ plumage from season to season? From an examination of the text, placed on the opposite page to that of the illustrated subject bird, it is clear that George Edwards was at the centre of the large group of Ornithologists that lived in London, many are named here together with where they lived and how they had procured the bird in question together with other details that are thought sufficiently important. Joseph Dandridge, the artist who painted George Edwards, is one of these birdmen and it is easy to imagine
that the visits when painting his portrait were combined with the visiting and observing of Dandridge’s birds, butterflies and collection of Nature’s Curiosities.
Further image details and credits (1)… The engraving is from George Edwards A Natural History of Uncommon Birds, and of Some Other Rare and Undescribed …….Animals Vol.1 plate 12. (2) The portrait of George Edwards by Joseph Dandridge is signed and dates from c.1740. (3) Engraving – ibid. Vol. 2 plate 66, Black and White Chinese Cock Pheasant. Model image – courtesy MFA Boston, ……..acc.no.96.880, Gift of Mrs. Thomas O. Richardson, from the collection of Mrs. Richard Baker. (4) Engraving – ibid. Vol. 2 plate 61. Model image – courtesy Robyn Robb. (5) Engraving – ibid. Vol. 1 plate 21. Model image – courtesy MFA Boston, acc.no.30.326, Gift of Richard C. Paine. (6) Engraving – ibid. Vol. 2 plate 63. Model image – courtesy MFA Boston, acc.no.1988.735, Jessie and Sigmund Katz

Circa 1749-52

Provenance
Private English Collection

Literature.

See Paul Crane, English Ceramic Circle Transactions. Vol 28, ‘Nature, Porcelain and Enlightenment: George Edwards and the Chelsea Porcelain Birds.’pl. 3 and 4, p.33 and 34.

Dimensions
Height: 5 Ins. (12.5cms.)

Item No. 1768

Please hover over image to enlarge

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