Thursday, 11 June 2015

Pick O' The Day — The MIssing Piece

The pretty blue thingamajig taking up a quarter of my desk space carries a back-stamp on the underside of the foot in the form of a smeared picture of a watery scene with the legend 'LAKE' beneath — but nothing else. I guess it isn't a makers mark because I've never heard of such a company and this is certainly British so I should have if it ever was one. It has to be something else, but I'm not sure what because I really don't have much of a clue when it comes to Victoriana.

I love the Georgian period but bore easily when faced with the Victorians. Pretty is the best term I can apply to their output. It seems to my eye that all elegance in the crafts was lost sometime in the reign of William IV to be replaced in many things by a certain swollen lumpishness that is never made so apparent as when two like objects from both eras are placed next each other. One wins hands down, and it's usually the earlier piece.

And what about all those company names inked upon everything and anything ordinary? My trouble is that I hate knowing exactly what a thing is so very quickly. It takes all the enjoyment out of it. Give me the Georgians any day. You have to work to understand what's what with them even when they bothered to mark things, and yet here I am with a piece of Victoriana that I have to work at. And it takes me the best part of a day's work to put together the pieces of an incomplete jigsaw to nail it.

I think it will fall under the general heading of 'blue and white china,' because that's what my granny would have called it, so, I google that only to be confronted with entirely the wrong kind of blue and white china. Seems 'blue and white' is the antique trade's term not for British willow pattern type crocks but rather Chinese wares. Undeterred, I refine my search over and over again till eventually I start to get somewhere and in the end arrive at what is a satisfactory answer to the puzzle even with a piece or two of it missing.

Ashworth & Bros  'Lake' pattern bowl, Circa 1870
Turns out that it's a late in the century soup tureen in 'blue transfer ware' production probably by a company by the name of Ashworth.  And the back-stamp refers to their transfer pattern, 'Lake'. Can't find a tureen in 'Lake' but an exact pattern match on another Ashworth ware with the same back-stamp and also without makers marks is fit for purpose. 

Sounds straightforward enough, don't it? But I tell you I rarely have to delve so deeply into Google's compacted dirt to find out facts like that. I can't complain, though. When I started picking many moons ago it would have taken a year in a fusty public library to excavate such a simple truth...

What's remarkable about this tureen is that it's in mint condition. I just can't see any sign of it ever being used. It's as if someone bought it the one day, put it in a hat box the next, every succeeding generation of the family ignored it and when the hatbox was sent to the junk emporium 150 years later, some other picker with a keen eye for hatboxes (but a blind eye for ceramics) removed it, put it back on the shelf, and walked away with their empty prize.

But that can't be the case. Originally the old tureen would have been part of a set including matching stand and ladle, both of which pieces are missing. Oddly enough, just a couple of days later a missing piece turns up in a local charity shop 30 miles away. A ladle, and it's a perfect fit for size. Shame about the slightly different pattern  Never mind. Someone will still want it on its own for what it is.

On the floor beneath the shelf that holds the pint mug that holds the ladle is a big fat filthy pot with a chip out of its rim decorated with an unintelligible scene including an old man with a very large head and a recumbent speckled deer. 

It is far Eastern, that is certain. But Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese or Siamese, I haven't a clue because I have absolutely no knowledge of their outputs, have never handled china of any age hailing from those parts of the world, and so I ain't got an eye for it. I think it probably modern, and a plant pot. Perhaps rejected from some local restaurant where it fell over and got an unsightly dink in it. The base has no mark either — just a perfectly circular hole drilled dead central which seems to confirm my gardenalia hypothesis.

So, I put it down, go about my business, and forgot about it.

Yet something about it has got under my skin. The break in the rim had revealed a bright white body which I thought off putting at the time, yet the thickly glazed interior of the pot was speckled with blackened indentations, and in the base it was pocked all over with them. Trouble was, I only realised something about it had it got under my skin whilst trying to sleep, so I couldn't rest.

Once again that meant a return journey...

And very early the next morning if I was going to get my foot in the door before you got yours in!

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