part 1 of 3



There have been several phases of Derby porcelain production. Although the exact date the works were originally established is uncertain, the origins of Derby porcelain can be traced back to 1748, when Andre Planche, a trained jeweller, started producing small, finely modelled figures at a factory opposite St Mary's Bridge in Derby. A white cream jug, incised 'D. 1750' is now preserved in the Victoria & Albert Museum, and is the earliest known piece of Derby ware.

Figures made until 1756 by Planche are known as 'Dry edge'. The Derby factory, in common with the works at Chelsea and Bow in London, used a soft paste imitation porcelain and a thick, glassy glaze. A distinctive Derby feature is the narrow band on the base, which is left glaze-free to prevent fusing during the firing process.

 This feature allows for quite accurate dating of early Derby pieces.
Until 1760, the works mainly produced ornamental pieces, vases and figurines, and very little tableware. This is partly because the early Derby body was unable to withstand boiling water - making it unsuitable for a tea service, for example!



The second phase of Derby porcelain began with the employment of the talented entrepreneur William Duesbury in 1756. Duesbury entered into agreement with Planche and developed the ceramic body, making it stronger, thus allowing the production of beautifully decorated dinner, dessert and coffee services for the luxury market.        

The factory continued to make finely-modelled figures during this period, as part of Duesbury's claim to make Derby a 'Second Dresden'. These figures are sought-after and valuable today.



Andrew Dando, a dealer specialising in porcelain produced before 1870, comments, 'The 18th century Derby figures are distinctive but not vastly different from figures produced by other manufacturers at the time. In fact, originality was hardly a concern of the Derby factory - they unashamedly copied designs from European factories such as Dresden and Meissen. A pair of Derby shepherd figures would be sold as 'a pair of Dresden shepherds' for example.'

Figures made in the late 18th century, between 1760-1780, were slip cast and light weight, and are often recognisable today for three patches on the base left by the three blobs of clay used to lift the figure off the base of the kiln. However, as Andrew Dando points out, 'These patch marks are useful in attribution and dating, but are not decisive.'

From 1770, figures began to be produced in a Sevres-inspired biscuit body and unglazed porcelain. These were high quality pieces with fine details and a soft wax-like appearance, which brought international acclaim to the Derby factory. Subjects for figure groups were usually taken from Meissen or Dresden originals and included classical and allegorical themes such as Europa and the Bull', 'Diana the Huntress' and 'Wisdom and Peace', as well as royalty, national heroes, saints, authors, animals and pairs of lovers.

The values of these 18th-century figures can be high, as you might expect for delicate porcelain pieces which have survived over 200 years. Andrew Dando explains, 'The cheapest 18th century Derby figures, for example, a simple cherub with a basket of flowers, would be worth £150-200. Larger more elaborate shepherd figures would start at £500 each. If you come across a rare and desirable theatrical figure, these character pieces can go up to £3,000-4,000."



Under Duesbury's guidance, figure production soon rivalled that of the Bow factory in London. He bought the London factories of Vauxhall, Kentish Town and Bow, and promptly closed them to reduce the number of competitors. He acquired the famous Chelsea works in 1769, which enabled him to transfer talented craftsmen to the factory in Derby.

The company was known as Chelsea-Derby for 14 years until the Chelsea works were eventually closed in 1784. Even small pieces of Chelsea- Derby are very valuable, and are rare because they were in production for such a short period. One trio - comprising cup, saucer and small plate, in good condition, can be worth up to £800. A pair of figural candlesticks or 11 encrusted urns, in excellent condition, c valued up to £1,700.




part 3    CROWN DERBY

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