Parian business proved to be extremely lucrative for porcelain makers, as figural pieces were being sold at a high premium, more
as statuary objects rather than just porcelain figurines.
While Minton and Copeland were by far the largest and most successful Parian manufacturers of their time, many other British
porcelain makers were trying to ride the Parian wave. These were mostly smaller shops, partnerships, that employed very few
people and therefore could not possibly keep up with their large rivals.
Coalport, on the other hand, was one of largest porcelain manufacturers of 19th century who certainly had facilities and funds
necessary to successfully compete with Minton and Copeland.
So why did not they do as well as Minton and Copeland? Your guess would be as good as mine.
Coalport’s position from the very beginning, during mid 1840s at a time when Parian was being invented, was very reactive. While
other firms were true believers in the new material and the advantages it could bring, Coalport chose to take a more wait-and-see
It’s only after a huge success of Copeland’s Narcissus, did Coalport started its own Parian production taking advantage of the
pioneering work of others. Some busts, small figures an other wares were made. Then in 1851, Joseph Pitts was commissioned to
design four elaborate figural groups after Spencer’s "The Faerie Queen". Their production started in 1853. They were extremely
well received and highly praised by critics. One would expect the company to build on such a success, but that did not happen. No
more high quality statuary Parian was produced at Coalport. Once again, we can only guess why…
Going back to the Pitts’ groups, they are truly magnificent!
Vision of The Redcrosse Knight illustrates Book I of “The Faerie Queen”. The Knight’s visor is raised. He’s reclining on a rock and
glazing up at a beautiful female figure concealed by flowing drapery. The Knight represents Holiness being seduced by a false
vision of Truth (represented by Una in the allegory) :
“And, coming where the Knight in slumber lay,
The one upon his hardy head he placed,
And made him dream of loves and lustful play;
The night his manly heart did melt away,
Bathed in wanton bliss and wicked joy.”
Despite being a very heavy piece, there is some amazing elegance and even lightness in the modeling with the vertical, half-
visible, almost elusive figure of Vision contrasted with the solid, prone Knight.
Two other figural groups designed by Pitts illustrate Book III of the epic poem. They are called Britomartis Unveiling Amaret and
Bitomartis Releasing Amaret. Britomartis represents the Knight of Chastity. It must be noted that veiled subjects became very
popular in 19th century sculpture after Monti’s bust of The Bride became a huge success. We can only imagine challenges that
Coalport had to overcome to make such complex groups. Surely dozens of different moulds must have been used for various body
parts and other details. It was quite a task to put them all together, clean off all the junctions to avoid ridges, and then carefully fire
the finished piece several times, hoping that it won’t crack apart while the material contracts.
The last group, Sir Calapine Rescuing Serena, illustrates Book VI which contains the Legend of Courtesy. Sir Calidore (to use the
name applied by Spencer) actually represented Sir Phillip Sidney while Serena - the wife of Sir Walter Raleigh. She’s shown as a
supine and extremely vulnerable (and very nude) between the two combatants. There is a copy of this group in Victoria and Albert
Museum in London.
It’s quite a challenge to be able to collect all four of these amazing pieces. They are very rare and hard to find. But hey, that’s what
collecting is all about!