Interpreting Ceramics | issue 14 | 2012

Conference Papers & Article

Chasse au Lapin
(*) (*)(*) (*) (*)  

From Ceramics to the Bronze Age:

Commercializing Sculpture in the United Kingdom and on the Continent – A Juxtaposition

Part l


Isabel Hufschmidt

Contents | Home

What difference can a description make?

Michael Hose

'You can use clay, but you can't do ceramics'

Some Thoughts on Why Ceramics isn´t Sculpture

Conor WIlson

From Ceramics to the Bronze Age:

Commercializing Sculpture in the United Kingdom and on the Continent – A Juxtaposition
Part I

Isabel Hufschmidt

Order and Disorder:

Some Relationships between Ceramics, Sculpture and Museum Taxonomies

Michael Tooby

Hans Coper:

Sculpture in Architecture

Alun Graves

Why Clay?


Stephen Dixon

Not all Cows are Piebald:

Ceramics and Sculpture in South Africa

Wilma Cruise


NB. A Word document is available to download at the end of each article.

The painter speaks to the world
through the medium of the engraver;
why may not the sculptor teach as eloquently
through the agency of his elder brother the potter?
symbol Robert Hunt

...the Fine Arts, divorced entirely from Truth this long while,
and wedded almost professedly to Falsehood, Fiction and suchlike,
are got into what we must call an insane condition:
they walk abroad without keepers, nobody suspecting their sad state,
and do fantastic tricks...
Thomas Carlyle symbol

To make stone look like iron work,
or wood like silk,
or pottery like stone is
the last resource of the decrepitude of art.
William Morris 


This study, in two parts, is the first presentation of a more exhaustive research project entitled ‘The Edition of Sculpture in England’. It comprises an analysis of bilateral influences, focusing on artistic and aesthetic measures, technical evolution and the striving for prestige in ceramics, closely related to economic interests in the realm of industrialization regarding the domain of serially reproduced and commercialized sculpture in 19th century France and Britain.

Aesthetic interaction – with a particular emphasis on the ‘New Sculpture’ – goes hand in hand with a modified attitude towards sculpture concer­ning its relation to the decorative and the applied arts, its commercial potential, at once leading to and having its roots in a progress-supporting, economic-based conviction and a new democracy in accessing and enjoying art. (Fig.1)

The point of departure is set in France, in the city of Paris in the first half of the 19th century. Here, the traveler from abroad, whether artist, connoisseur or amateur d'art would encounter a highly industrialized domain regarding the serial production and edition of sculptural works through the collaboration between foundries and artists. Due to different materials (bronze, plaster, terra­cotta, biscuit &c.) and dimensions, the price range was considerable, enabling an increasing number of potential ‘middle class’ bourgeois clients to afford such objects of art. In addition to a varied choice of sujets, not only mere single figures and groups were on offer, as these were, very commonly, ‘modified’ into decorative items, i.e. mounted on chimney clocks, as part of whole arrangements with candelabras, for example, as add-ons of inkstands, knives, stamps as well as whole desk sets. To be precise, these figurines were either reduced reproductions of large-scale sculptures (ancient masterpieces, sculptural works from the Renaissance onwards, as well as successful contemporary statuary exhibited at the salon) or small-scale models intended to be produced as editions by artists as components of decorative arrangements and objects in their own right.

This development – which had already been anticipated to some extent in the preceding centuries – grew considerably in the 1830s and is mainly associated with the famous fondeurs-éditeurs Ferdinand Barbedienne and Susse Frères, in addition to fabricants like Labroue, Denière, Hébert, Salvatore Marchi, Duplan & Salles, Quesnel, Lerolle or Thiébaut &c.

At this point it will be useful to focus on the actual relation to Britain which divides into two equal branches of observation. Firstly, French fondeurs-édi­teurs held commercial relations to British agents; Barbedienne, for instance, collaborated with Graham & Jackson (London), Thomas Agnew & Sons (Manchester, London, Liverpool), and even overseas with Tiffany & Co. (New York).1 Moreover, a British trading enterprise like Bellman & Ivey, dealing with English, French and Italian works of sculpture, advertised itself as ‘Agents for the best European Founders’.2 Indeed, French bronzes , by virtue of their imagery and finest technical execution, were much admired among British collectors and connoisseurs as well as artists. This admiration was furthermore fostered in parallel by the success of French foundries decorated with prizes at the Expositions Universelles.

Secondly, analogous to this, is the interest of British ceramic manufactories in French sculp­ture for reproduction, especially editions in biscuit and Parian ware. The rapid growth of industrialism in the centres of pottery in Britain – particularly Staffordshire – had, in this concern, opened the door to the mass production of ceramic wares. This was accompanied, moreover, by the founding of design schools like the Lambeth School of Art as well as the Potteries School of Design. Thus there was in Britain an understandable interest in reproducing, commercializing and collecting French small-scale statuary, and the implementation of British-generated editions of sculpture whose development had a quite distinct ‘look’ compared to that of France.

The British Tradition - Pottery

The British approach to the commercializing of sculpture, although different, was no less effective. Manufacturers of high-quality ceramic wares in Staffordshire, in the main locations of Burslem, Cobridge, Etruria, Fenton, Hanley, Lane Delph, Lane End, Longport, Longton, Shelton, Stoke and Tunstall, as well as outside the county in Derby, Chelsea (London), Bow (London), Leeds, Plymouth, Bristol and Worcester, were all proud of their traditions and the kudos attached to their products. Furthermore they were united in their pursuit of the aemulatio of Chinese and Meissen porcelain, i.e. superseding, or at least equaling, the hardness, toughness, lightness, whiteness and translucency of those wares by experimenting with the compositions of porcelain and various ceramic bodies such as stoneware, earthenware and biscuit. (Fig. 2)

Hard paste porcelain from East Asia, mainly China, was of the highest quality. European potters, Meissen in the first instance, worked on its imitation and developed a soft-paste porcelain, fired at lower temperatures and less hard. The finest production of this kind came from French manufactories in Rouen and Saint-Cloud at first, followed by Chantilly and Vincennes. English potters were likewise indefatigable in their efforts to find a paste competing easily with imported wares. The secret to be discovered throughout these experiments lay in getting to know the best proportion of additions and which ingredients to include for best results, choosing feldspar from Ireland, for instance, china stone (known as Cornwall or Cornish stone), frit, bone ash, alabaster and different kinds of clay, the latter mainly supplied either from Cornwall or Devon. From the mid-1800s on, bone china, a genuinely English production, came into existence, containing two parts bone ash, one part kaolin and one part china stone, then mostly replaced by feldspar of non-UK origin. Thomas Frye (1710-1762) of the Bow porcelain factory, London, patented his formula in 1749 - the first English bone china according to an assertion in his epitaph declaring him ‘the inventor and first manufacturer of porcelain in England’3 - which was improved subsequently by Josiah Spode, predecessor of Copeland. To summarise, the experiments with ceramic bodies by British manufacturers were conducted in order to be competitive with the products from abroad, which were leading the way in their superiority and popularity within a métier that was growing more and more industrially structured and commercial. Here we find the roots of the establishment and implementation of a commerce with sculpture, quite analogous to that in France, equally endorsed by the collaboration between fabricants, artists and dealers, i.e. agents operating the marketing and trade within the national boundaries as well as abroad, and last but not least the promotion via catalogues, advertisement and showrooms of the resulting products.

Making figures, indeed with ‘artistic’ claims, had long since been a tradition in Britain with regard to the remarkable number of manufacturers dedicated to the production of plastic works in terracotta, earthenware, stoneware and biscuit, experimenting incessantly with the improvement of the ceramic bodies, the construction of kilns, as well as with firing and glazing techniques. William Duesbury of Derby, a prominent example, took clear advantage of the Prussian attack on Dresden in 1756 which stopped the production of the Saxonian manufactory, as he saw the opportunity to serve the market by ‘duplicating’ Meissen figures, many of which he received from collectors for copying.4  This production was then proudly called ‘Second Dresden’. After having bought the Chelsea porcelain factory in 1770, (through which he must have as well acquired books including formulas and documenting experiments) the Duesbury manufactory developed one of the most noted biscuit bodies amongst British potters, containing alabaster from Derbyshire, although perhaps not the first in production.5 It is well known that Bow biscuit figures were in distribution from around 1756 and experiments could well have been undertaken in Chelsea as it is evident that Duesbury started producing biscuit after the acquisition of the Chelsea business. And all these developments go back to one root: the Sèvres manufactory with its unrivalled flawless biscuit porcelain containing as the vital ingredient silica from Fontainebleau sand, being virtually free of impurities.6 (Fig. 3)

Another notable attempt at competing with Chinese porcelain was undertaken by the chemist William Cookworthy (1705-1780) from Plymouth. Influenced by René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur's (1683-1757) treatise about Chinese kaolin and petuntze - indebted in turn to the collaboration with the jesuit priest François Xavier d'Entrecolles (1664-1741), who had stayed in China since 1698, so benefiting from his investigative work on the topic and profound knowledge - he started experiments on his own, resulting in a patent registered in 1768.7 Indeed, in the 1750's, Cookworthy had found that Cornish growan stone was equal to Chinese petuntze.8 This was the point of departure for pioneering efforts in English porcelain, but it took a long time until the composition was of satisfying perfection. Around 1761, he installed a pottery kiln for first experiments in Bristol9 before establishing proper works at Plymouth which he, by 1770, had to amalgamate with the Bristol-based business for economic straits.10 In 1773, the firm was then under the directorship of Richard Champion, former partner of Cookworthy. The enterprise advertised:

The True Porcelain […] is now brought to Great Perfection, Its texture not to be distinguished from East India China. / […] The Enamell of the Bristol China is as hard as the Dresden and harder than the Chinese / […] they can render this China in most Articles as cheap as the Asiatic and much Cheaper than the Dresden.11

The range of subjects offered to the consumer seemed to be as great as the number of manufacturers of the wares. Besides all those themes empruntés from Meissen, many of them going back to the modeller Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775), like displays of monkeys or of characters from the Commedia dell'Arte, just to mention two very popular examples, we find figures and groups featuring pastoral scenes, rural life, children, playful putti, animals, furthermore portrait busts and figures, as well as a very particular subject getting attention in the beginning of the 19th century probably throughout the interest in phrenological studies, i.e. the depiction of notorious murderers enjoying public attention.

But to come back, respectively to specify and confine the circumstances of industrialization of Britain's pottery, the view is now focused on a crucial personality, both in the history of pottery and modern enterprise organization alike. A kind of avant-garde status has to be attributed to Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795), known for his progressive understanding of marketing, enterprise management and factory discipline which, unprecedented of its kind, was very soon followed by others, speaking here of practices employed about a century before they became common in terms of enterprise organization. Wedgwood published the first pottery trade catalogue in 1773 to advertise his products, opened showrooms for their display and was an adroit networker, securing patronage and clients' interest by observing trends in order to respond adequately to them. Furthermore, on the level of the internal structure of his organization, he introduced the principles of division of labour following the example of Adam Smith, in order to enhance the efficiency of production, relying on the specialization of highly trained and skilled workers. Importantly, he also put an emphasis on hygiene standards and safety including the protection of the employees' health and, last but not least, laid down his own experienced knowledge of the métier's practice in a set of Potters' Instructions as well as Rules and Regulations.12

It is by no means exaggerated or misleading, then, to consider Wedgwood as a precursor of the so called Scientific Management established in the beginning of the 20th century. By unwaveringly asserting his new approaches in the pottery business, by industrializing it from its very grounds, he was able to optimize commercial exploitation of the métier to its full advantage, leading to its heyday in the 19th century although the foundations were laid long beforehand. (Fig.4)

Although a pioneer with many followers, Wedgwood's ideas were not universally shared  and were later openly criticized. Bernhard Rackham and Herbert Read pointed out that the Danish historian Dr. Emil Hannover (1864-1923), over a century later in his Keramisk Haandbog of 1919, severely condemned the entrepreneurial directions chosen by Wedgwood ‘for having introduced into a craft which is essentially artistic in its nature the spirit of the factory’.13 Nevertheless it is beyond dispute that Wedgwood not only represented the new type of entrepreneur but was also one of the most inventive minds for the benefit and respect of the potters' fraternity. He introduced jasper ware and pearl ware, the latter, released in 1779, being a harder as well as a whiter body intended as improvement to his popular queen's ware, Wedgwood's trade name for cream ware (also referred to as tortoiseshell-ware or Prattware), a kind of refined earthenware. Pearlware was subsequently perfected in Leeds around 1790 in order to facilitate figure production.14

By making recourse, at this point, to the – however pejorative – judgement by William Morris apropos of the ambition to make pottery look like stone, i.e. in a wider sense like anything else but not ceramics at all, and, in doing so, bridging from the commercialization of art works born from clay to the editions of small-scale statuary in bronze, the opportunity is taken here to reference a further innovation, which was the production of figures and busts in black basalt by Wedgwood & Bentley. These works emulated the appearance of patinated bronze sculpture in the same way that Parian ware was later meant to do with marble. In the catalogue of 1779, Wedgwood declares about his product prodigy:

The Black Composition having the Appearance of antique bronze, and so nearly agre­eing in Properties with the Basaltes of the Aegyptians, no Substance can be better than this for our Busts, Sphinxes, small Statues, &c., and it seems to us to be of great Conse­quence to preserve as many fine Works of Antiquity and of the present Age as we can, in this composition; when all Pictures are faded or rotten, when Bronzes are rusted away, and all the excellent Works in Marble dissolved, then these Copies will probably remain, and transmit the Works of Genius and the Portraits of illustrious Men to the most distant Times.15 (Fig. 5)

Very similar to this mimicry of material is the use of lustrous glazes, like silver lustre with platinum simulating the precious metal, especially employed by Wood & Caldwell from 1805 onwards.16 Not least at this stage, the aiming at the serial reproduction of sculptural works by means of much cheaper material than metal or marble is apparent. But at first it was purely technical improvements, like the shift from hand-modeling to casting via the application of moulds made of plaster of Paris (introduced during the 1740s by Ralph Daniel of Cobridge who had been working in France - seen as one of the crucial turning points in British pottery by accelerating industrialization) which led to faster, more efficient and less costly production.

The French Model’s Ascendancy and British Heritage

While the edition in bronze was to come later, having to keep up with the French example and establish itself firmly, its precursor, which in many respects was essentially British in character, was actually the production of sculpture in a ceramic body. But even this success relied on French mastership as Britain’s art pottery borrowed selectively from French know-how, at its best from direct collaboration, when we consider, just to designate a few among many examples, that artists like Nicholas-Joseph-François Gauron and Pierre Stephan left for England and contributed to the success of the Derby factory from the 1770's on, or that Louis-François Roubiliac (1695-1762), a famous and sought sculptor of his time, was employed as modeller for Chelsea, which stands quintessentially for the British potteries in aiming at the first row among international industrial and artistic achievements.17 Of couse, we shall not forget that the industrialization's cradle was England from which it spread out over the rest of Europe, but in art, whether pottery or the industry of bronzes d'art, France was to take the forefront. It was only when political changes in France, due to the revolution of 1848, provoked a shift of both qualified staff and capital to Britain, that there was a possibility to break this leadership,18 but the benefit from French knowledge had already played its crucial part. (Fig. 6)

A never underestimated aspect in this concern lies in the fact, as already hinted at, that sculptors and artisans from France – either invited for the general improvement of British art pottery by the very knowledge of special techniques and the well-admired French sensibility of design particularly esteemed for the clear superiority of France in educating their artists in this field, or having chosen England as refuge from political unrest or economic difficulties - prepared and took guidance of a development, or perhaps even tradition, which already had grown in the centuries before. France led by example in the fine and also the applied arts, i.e. on the artistic, the aesthetic as well as the pure artisanal, technical level, and last but not least, as we shall see, in the consolidation of commercial possibilities. Names to be noted in this vein are those of Pierre-Emile Jeannest (1813-1857), Hugues Protât (active from mid 1850's), Léon Arnoux (1816-1902) and Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (1824-1887) who worked for Minton as modellers in chief and provided also knowledge by teaching their practice.

By this first comparison or juxtaposition of the status quo one prevailing aspect has become clear, quite feasible by first conclusions drawn from those reflections expounded above drawn from the vast history of the correlation between art pottery, commercialism in art and sculpture. This is that the evolution of publishing sculpture in bronze and further varying materials as practiced in France, had in Britain its predecessor in the making of figures in porcelain and biscuit, long before the availability of Parian ware boosted the popularity of sculpture for the masses. This process was much aided by the Art Unions, the old-established Society of Arts, respectively the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, in activity since 1745, and the reverberations of the International Exhbition of 1851 as well as the patronage of the Dukedom of Sutherland,19 and before a marketed exploitation in bronze. In order to dwell additionally on the decisive role of the Duke of Sutherland in the history of Parian ware, it should not be overlooked that it was the Duke first, in 1842 (following the testimony of Robert Hunt as no witnessing document seems to exist) who purchased a figure made in stone china, a body preliminary to the final statuary porcelain released around 1845.20 The figurine, issued by Copeland, was the reproduction of a marble from the Duke's proper collection displaying Apollo as the Shepherd Boy.21 By his act of acquisition, he enhanced, so to speak, by noble advocacy, further experiments on the ceramic body, which in the end came to be virtually undistinguishable from marble, and with the outcome of the perfected paste, as eager supporter of the new creation, made several recommendations for subjects to be realized in Parian ware.22 (Fig.7)

And in this context, we may draw the view on a short ‘genealogical’ retrospective: Minton, Copeland, Worcester, Coalport, Rockingham and other manufactories, respectively locations bringing forth biscuit figures and of whom the two former were to accelerate the production and marketing of ceramic small-scale sculpture following modern commercial requirements in the 19th century, relied much on the qualities and achievements of the famous Chelsea, Bow and Derby biscuit production dating from the 18th century. The latter is mainly deemed as the precursor of statuary porcelain, alias Parian ware, emerging first in the 1840s and being a kind of improved body - highly vitrified and with an unglazed marble-like surface without danger of staining, i.e. with the possibility of easy-cleaning - based on the composition of biscuit. But British pottery gained a lot of its artistic and artisanal development and success by availing itself generously of the one superior example: the ceramic works of Sèvres. And thus we have to cross the borders and go back a little in time, imaginatively visiting the site of porcelain production in Saint-Cloud and the Manufacture Royale de Porcelaine, first located at Vincennes under the denomination Manufacture de Vincennes before moving to Sèvres which was to become the byword for the highest artisanal and aesthetic qualities in the manufacturing of ceramics. Here we come to the very roots of the French influx and influence in question which, as we shall see, endured perseveringly in the sequel.

To summarise at this point, research in the field of serially reproduced sculpture in 19th century France reveals a phenomenon crossing the national borders. Works by famous French sculptors, amongst others Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828), Jean-Jacques Pradier (1790-1852), Jean-Auguste Barre (1811-1896), Francisque Duret (1798-1878), Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, Jean-Jacques Feuchère, Auguste Clésinger (1814-1883), Pierre-Jules Mène (1810-1879), Charles Cumberworth (1811-1852), Alfred-Emilien de Nieuwerkerke (1811-1892), Jean-Baptiste-Jules Klagmann (1810-1867), Jean-François-Théodore Gechter (1796-1844), which, since the 1830s had been regularly reproduced and commercially distributed by popular foundries in Paris like Susse Frères or Barbedienne, attracted also the interest of English manufactories such as Minton, Copeland, Worcester, Cooke or Robinson & Leadbeater. These manufactories were engaged in the reproduction and sale – sometimes at the scale of mass-production - of small-scale statuary, the most successful period being that of the rise of Parian ware. Many examples of this petite sculpture born at this epoch of highly industrially dominated art production still are to be found in today’s art market, appearing in quite considerable numbers at auctions, often online. (Fig. 8)

A growing commercial interest on the part of English manufacturers in French sculpture can be ascer­tained in particular from the 1840s onwards, reaching its peak in the second half of the cen­tury, when British sculpture itself obviously showed a change in language. In this re­gard, the present reflections comprise an analysis considering the following aspects: firstly, the reproduction and commercial distribution of French sculpture and designs by English potteries with regard to their impact on, plus their interaction with, the further tendency of British sculpture, in particular those artists representing the New Sculpture, as well as on the incentive to realize competitive editions of sculpture in Britain.

Secondly the detailed consideration of this facet bears a close relation to a changed attitude towards sculpture and its relation to the decorative arts, its commercial potential, the interaction of art and industry, the possibilities offered on the field of a kind of commercial aesthetics, a democracy in the merchandising of art, in purchasing and enjoying art, as also a new entrepreneurial thinking - even shared by artists, like Alfred Gilbert (1854-1934) or Hamo Thornycroft (1850-1925). All of this was happening within the context of a strong belief in progress, which dominated the industrial 19th century. With this in mind, the author allows herself to invoke a passage from Siegfried Giedion's Mechanization Takes Command, which perspicaciously sums up and visualizes this belief. Not by coincidence, Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet (1743-1794) (explicitly mentioned by name in the following passage) and also Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) lend their ‘godfatherhood’ as key figures within the 18th and 19th centuries to this worship of progress.

Eighteenth-century faith in progress as formulated by Condorcet started from science; that of nineteenth century, from mechanization. Industry, which brought about this mechanization with its unceasing flow of inventions, had something of the miracle that roused the fantasy of the masses. This was especially true in the time of its greatest pop­ularity and expansion, the latter half of the century. The period in which the great inter­national expositions are historically significant – from London, 1851, to Paris, 1889 – roughly delimits that time. These festivals to the ideas of progress, mechanization, and industry fall off as soon as faith in the mechanical miracle becomes dimmed. Belief in progress is replaced by faith in production.23

At this point it is important to identify exemplary personalities at the heart of the eminently French faith in commerce and representing French aesthetics par excellence. Some have been referred to previously, namely, Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse and Pierre-Emile Jeannest collaborating with Minton, the former also providing Wedgwood, Copeland, Brownfield of Cobridge and T. J. & J. Mayer at Dale Hall Pottery of Longport with models, the latter holding a post at the Potteries School of Design and collaborating later with Elkington in Birmingham. (Fig.9) But a crucial figure was equally Jules Dalou (1838-1902) during his stay in England from 1871 to 1879, an authority in mediating the French spirit of sculp­ture, not least throughout his teaching at South Kensington School of Art. One of his most successful pupils was Alfred Drury. It was Dalou, moreover, who encouraged Frederic Lord Leighton (1830-1896), one of the prominent personalities of the New Sculpture, to increase the dimensions of his Athlete Wrestling with a Python (1874) to life-size.24

Similarly, Edouard Lantéri (1848-1917), teaching at South Kensington from 1880 onwards, was a mediator of French art whose attraction for the New Sculpture cannot be denied, not least as one of his pupils was Alfred Gilbert. Additionally, the presence of sculptors like Carlo Marocchetti (1805-1867) who supported the influx of French artists to England, Antoine Etex (1808-1888), pupil of the famous Jean-Jacques Pradier, David d'Angers (1788-1856), Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (1827-1875), and Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) had a significant impact. Just by mentioning these famous personalities, their influence might perhaps be seen as inevitable. But the extent of that influence must be judged with some caution, and as I suggest, this analysis not only encompasses artistic and aesthetic conditions, but also particular economic interests under the ascendancy of industrialization.

A specific case in point will help to widen and develop the given frame of this study. The aspect in question pertains to the already mentioned trade with French serially reproduced sculpture abroad. It becomes evident that due to commercial relations and the fact that manufacturers in England showed a high interest in the exploitation of French models and small statuary and therefore employed French modellers to provide them with designs and teaching, the knowledge of French sculpture (comprising its imagery, aesthetics, technical superiority - especially in casting - and also commercial ambition) established itself firmly in the realm of British sculpture. Moreover at a time when it became fashionable to study in Paris to complete one’s artistic education instead of choosing the pilgrimage to Italy, it was an opportune and welcome moment for British statuary to pass beyond its limits of expression and perception. (Fig.10/11)



Commercialization Taking Form

Thus, to go further, in France, the edition of small sculpture - comprising ceramics, bronze, plaster and all sorts of other materials - had achieved the status of an industrial branch in its own right with a range of professions and trades associated with it. It acted as a motor for the art market and achieved success at the Expositions Universelles. Beyond that, the invention of the réducteur by Achille Collas (1795-1859), patented on 22nd March 1837, and a similar machine by Frédéric Sauvage (1786-1857), patented a year earlier on 3rd May 1836,25 contributed to the success by making possible the production of proportionally correct small-scale models from large-scale sculptures.

This enabled the reproduction of any required subject (preferably masterpieces of antiquity) on a commercial level and in this way made sculpture, contemporary as well as historical, approachable and accessible to a broad public. Benjamin Cheverton's (1794-1876) sculpturing machine had already been constructed around 1828 and was patented in 1844, functioning on the same principles as the apparatus by Collas and Sauvage.26 Compared to these continental developments in the mechanization of art production, the British industry of art, generating its own strategies, struggled to establish itself in the domain of serially reproduced sculpture. Speaking at a time when it was already too late to catch up, the boom of statuettes having been by then past its peak, Onslow Ford said in 1889:

There are any numbers of firms on the Continent who publish bronzes and send them all over the world. In this kingdom there is not one. 27

Despite their different approaches and developments, both the French-originating and the British-generated commercializations of sculpture show nevertheless parallels in the choice of subjects, dominated on both sides at first by a strong interest in distributing masterpieces of antiquity. (Fig.12) In England, it was again Wedgwood who was the forerunner in this revival of the ancient world. Inspired in 1776 by the Recueil d'Antiquités Egyptiennes, Etrusques, Grecques, Romaines et Gauloises written by Anne-Claude-Philippe de Tubières, Comte de Caylus (1692-1765), he adopted models and motives for their translation into ceramic wares.28 Following the same tendency, the London-based sculptor John Cheere (1709-1787), a former haberdasher, established a firm specializing in the reductions of ancient masterpieces in plaster and lead, but retailed as well works by contemporary artists.29 And to stay in this realm of commercial attempts, next to plaster, wax casting was an equally popular way to produce sculptural work, preferably portrait busts, quickly and in high quantities. In their study ‘Reproduction in Sculpture: Dilution or Increase’, Ed Allington and Ben Dhaliwal point to this practice, represented mainly by independent artists like the Irishman Samuel Percy  (1750-1820), a renowned modeller and sculptor, who marketed his profession by advertising and offering his services in several English towns before settling down in London.30


To return to the identification of subjects to be found among the range offered by French and English art pottery manufacturers, we find that historic statuary, beginning with Renaissance sculpture, the promotion of works by contemporary sculptors, including themes taken from literature, ecclesiastic sources, as well as a certain predilection for genre and mediaeval subjects, and last but not least, portraiture, in the form of busts and figures, all enjoyed a special popularity. A very British subject translated into ceramics, however, was the display of archaeological expeditions and excavations of Assyrian palaces and their sculpture in Mesopotamia at Nimrod, Nineveh and Khorsabad from the 1840s onward.31 The sculptures brought to the British Museum were reproduced by Copeland in Parian ware, for instance the figures of Sennacherib and Sardanapalus. Another example promoting the success of brave British adventurers was the so-called Milton Service, produced by Minton, featuring illustrations of the expedition mounted by Lord Milton and Dr. Walter Butler Cheadle in 1862/63 aiming at the discovery of the North West Passage by land.32 Milton commissioned the service in 1864 and it displays illustrations after drawings executed by Cheadle.33(Fig.13)

A comparative survey, focussing on sculpture and sculptural decorative objects produced by French fondeurs-éditeurs and English manufacturers, shows that in sales catalogues of French firms we find, under the category of contemporary sculpture, predominantly but not exclusively French artists listed, whereas the choice presented by English manufactories comprises a considerable number of French artists besides their British companions as well as sculptors of Italian, German and American origin. Several of these French artists have already been identified and discussed; the British side is mainly represented by John Bell (1812-1895), William Calder Marshall (1813-1894), Thomas Gibson (1790-1866), Mary Thornycroft (1814-1895), Sir Thomas Brock (1847-1922), William Beattie (active 1850s/1860s), Thomas Woolner (1825-1892), John Thomas (1813-1862), Sir Richard Westmacott (1775-1856) and Lord Ronald Charles Gower (1845-1915). Hiram Powers (1805-1873), Eugene Warburg (1825-1861), Henry F. Libby (1850-1903) as well as John Rogers (1829-1904) represent the American contribution – the latter two saw their works reproduced by Robinson & Leadbeater who maintained strong links with the American market.34 And quite exceptionally, the German sculptor Christian Daniel Rauch  (1777-1857) attracted the attention of Minton which issued his figure of Victory in Parian ware.35 (Fig.14)

This ambition to reproduce in Britain a vast array of sculpture on an industrialized and commercial scale, comprising as well designs for domestic wares and purely decorative objects like candelabras, chimney sets, knife handles, decanter stoppers, paperweights etc., just like those that could be found in the range of French founders, leads us at last to questions elaborated long before in France and addressed by critics and art theory, regarding this joint venture of art and industry, asking for its aims and its justification. In the following, the author may therefore already anticipate some aspects which will be part of the study’s sequel.

Conclusion and Preview

With the previous thoughts, we finally turn to the question of what we may call ‘commercial aestheticism’. While in France Gustave Planche (1808-1857) and Léon de Laborde (1807-1869), as prominent personalities in this discussion, laid down their antagonistic positions, it was left to Henry Cole (1808-1882) in Britain to give an adequate response aiming at the improvement of public taste and also a democratic way of enjoying and consuming art by making it affordable and preparing channels of wide distribution. The commercial value was to go hand in hand with the aesthetic value of the art work. Therefore the cooperation between artisans, artists and fabricators came to be of fundamental importance. What Wedgwood had begun a century before anticipated the spirit of this endeavour. And the backbone of this movement grew from and leaned upon the foundation of Summerly's Art Manufactures, established by Henry Cole in 1847 under his alias Felix Summerly, as well as the activities of the Art Unions, the local trade exhibitions at Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Dublin, Covent Garden (London) etc. during the 1840s.  The movement reached a peak with the first Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations in 1851 at the Crystal Palace in London, not least because of the close connections of manufacturers like Minton and a gifted businessman such as Cole with British royalty. The heyday of Parian ware, born around 1845, began thus at the same time, taking benefit from these developments and contributing itself to the enthusiasm towards serially reproduced sculpture, respectively, the commercializing of art in general. (Fig. 15)


In this regard, the second part of the study which is to follow in the next issue will include aspects of the discourse about aesthetic measures questioning the union of art, industry and strategies of marketing, both in France and Britain, and will extend the view on the development from serial reproductions of sculpture in ceramics to editions in bronze on British soil, keeping in view the situation in France, always a step ahead on the plane of time and know-how. In completion of this picture, the artists forming the circle  that was named ‘The New Sculpture’ by Edmund Gosse are considered in terms of their decisive and influential role in reshaping the understanding of sculpture in Britain, not least by their curiosity and ambition to experiment with sculptural techniques and expression. Of no less importance was the corresponding revival of interest in the art of foundry in Britain, especially the rediscovery of cire pedue. These two aspects together might be seen as crucial for the tendency at that epoch to commercialize and market sculpture, especially on an industrial and international scale.

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To return to the article click the relevant note number

symbolRobert Hunt, ‘Artificial Stone – Statuary Porcelain’, in The Art Journal, January 1849, pp.17-18.

symbolThomas Carlyle, ‘Jesuitism’, in Latter-Day Pamphlets, 1850, pp. 365-419, in The works of Thomas Carlyle, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2010, pp. 293-337, p.321.

symbolWilliam Morris, ‘Art and the Beauty of the Earth’, delivered before the Wedgwood Institute at the Town Hall, Burslem, 13th October 1881, in Norman Kelvin (ed.) William Morris on Art and Socialism, Toronto, 1999, pp.80-94, p.90.

1 See Florence Rionnet, ‘Barbedienne ou la fortune de la sculpture au XIXe siècle’, in Bulletin de la Société de l'histoire de l'art français, Paris, 2002, pp.301-324, p.319.
2 See  British bronze sculpture founders and plaster figure makers, 1800-1980, B, Vincent Bellman.
3 Supplement to the Gentleman's Magazine of the Year 1764, p. 638.
4 G. Bernard Hughes, English Pottery and Porcelain Figures, London, 1964, p.50.
5 Ibid, p.75.
6 Ibid, p.74.
7 Ibid, pp.93-94.
8 Ibid, p.93.
9 Ibid, p.93.
10 See Geoffrey Godden, Godden's Guide to English Porcelain, London/Toronto/Sydney/New York 1978, p.131.
11 Advertisement in Felix Farley's Journal, in G. Bernard Hughes, English Pottery and Porcelain Figures, 1964, p.97.
12 See Nancy Fowler Koehn, ‘Brand New: How Entrepreneurs Earned Consumers' Trust from Wedgwood to Dell’, Harvard, 2001, p. 37; Neil McKendrick, ‘Josiah Wedgwood and Factory Discipline, in Historical Journal, vol. 4, no. 1 (1961), pp.30-55; Neil McKendrick, ‘Josiah Wedgwood: An Eighteenth-Century Entrepreneur in Salesmanship and Marketing Techniques’, in The Economic History Review, new series, vol. 12, no. 3 (1960), pp.408-433.
13 Bernard Rackham and Herbert Read, English Pottery. Its Development from Early Times to the End of the Eighteenth Century, London, 1924, p.98.
14 See G. Bernard Hughes, English Pottery and Porcelain Figures, London, 1964, p.150.
15 Ibid, p.125.
16 Ibid, p.155.
17 See Philip Ward-Jackson, ‘French Modelers in the Potteries’, in Paul Atterbury (ed.) The Parian Phenomenon: A Survey of Victorian Parian Porcelain Statuary & Busts, Somerset, 1989, p.48,49.
18 Ibid.
19 The support of the Sutherland family was crucial for the maintenance and progress of the Potteries. Not only because of the collecting activity and the eager interest in innovation, but by the essential fact that the main water supply for the manufactories at Staffordshire was provided from the Duke's estate. Moreover, he gave access to models from his collection for reproduction and was an important financial contributor to the School of Design in Stoke. See Philip Ward-Jackson, ‘A.-E. Carrier-Belleuse, J.-J. Feuchère and the Sutherlands’, inThe Burlington Magazine, 127, 1985, pp. 147-153, p.150.
20 See Robert Copeland, Parian: Copeland's Statuary Porcelain, Suffolk 2007, p.36.
21 Ibid.
22 See Philip Ward-Jackson, ‘A.-E. Carrier-Belleuse, J.-J. Feuchère and the Sutherlands’, inThe Burlington Magazine, 127, 1985, pp. 147-153, p.150.
23 Siegfried Giedion, ‘Mechanization Takes Command“, New York/London, 1969, p.31.
24 See Edward Morris, French Art in 19th Century Britain, New Haven/London, 2005, p.255.
25 The pantograph, in fact, was not a new invention, at first introduced and applied by the German Jesuit Christoph Scheiner around 1603, but for the copying of drawings. He laid down his knowledge of this process in his treatise Pantographice from 1631.The sculptor Antoine Dutel in 1836 and the mechanic Emile Grimpé in 1838 patented some kind of réducteur. These machines, as Meredith Shedd notes, were based generally on the tour à portrait by a certain Hulot following descriptions in L.-E. Bergeron's publication Manuel du tourneur from 1816.These explications, in turn resting upon principles which had been declared by Charles Marie De la Condamine in a publication from 1732. See Meredith Shedd ‘A Mania for Statuettes: Achille Collas and Other Pioneers in the Mechanical Reproduction of Sculpture’, in: Gazette des Beaux-Arts, July/August, Paris 1992, pp.36-48.
26 Cheverton's machine wasn't the first of its kind in Britain to appear as weren't those by Collas and Sauvage in France. James Watts experimented on a similarly working machine around 1815, but Cheverton's construction was different as to make possible enlargements and reductions for the serial reproduction of sculpture. In the aftermath of Cheverton's pantograph, many improvements were attempted, amongst others one presented by the famous novelist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the sculptor W. G. Jones. After having secured the rights of an invention by the Naples-based August Bontempi, they published a machine working faster and without any need for human interference. This success was announced and congratulated on 3rd August 1903 in the Morning Post on the occasion of a public demonstration at a factory in Battersea supervised by a jury consisting of the sculptor Thomas Brock and Mr. Brindley of Farmer and Brindley who accorded their astonishment and approval. See Ed Allington and Ben Dhaliwal, Reproduction in Sculpture: Dilution or Increase?, The Centre for the Study of Sculpture, The Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, 1st January 1994,
27 See Edward Morris, French Art in 19th Century Britain, New Haven/London, 2005, p.257.
28 See Bernard Rackham and Herbert Read, English Pottery, Its Development from Early Times to the End of the Eighteenth Century, London, 1924, p.119.
29 See Ed Allington and Ben Dhaliwal, Reproduction in Sculpture: Dilution or Increase?, The Centre for the Study of Sculpture, The Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, 1st January 1994,
30 Ibid.
31 See ‘The Reproductions from the Assyrian Sculptures’, in Robert Copeland, Parian: Copeland's Statuary Porcelain, Suffolk 2007, pp.247-268.
32 See Paul Atterbury and Maureen Batkin, The Dictionary of Minton, Suffolk, 1998, p.129.
33 Ibid.
34 See Ellen Paul Denker, Parian Porcelain Statuary: American Sculptors and the Introduction of Art in American Ceramics,
35 See Paul Atterbury and Maureen Batkin, The Dictionary of Minton, Suffolk, 1998, p.293.

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From Ceramics to the Bronze Age • Issue 14

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