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Anonymous sale, Bonham's London, 8 December 2004, lot 187.
Acquired from Alistair Sampson Antiques, 8th December 2004.
Following the execution of Charles I in 1649, England was to experience a period of unrest and severity. This is reflected in the austere white tin-glazed wares produced during the Commonwealth period. It is unusual at this time to find delftware with any royal connection, as it would have been considered anti-establishment and naturally pro royal. A rare exception to this is the 'Ryall Oak' charger depicting Prince Charles hiding in the Boscobel Oak after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Yet, after the death of Cromwell, the Lord Protector, in 1658, and the unsuccessful incumbency of his son 'Tumbledown Dick', England rejoiced at the restoration of the monarchy; Charles entered London in May 1660.
Following his coronation, the delftware potters found a ready market for royal souvenirs, usually taking the form of the monarch dressed in full regalia, inscribed with his initials and sometimes a date. In whatever era one looks at these, they make a powerful statement. The most popular form, from extant examples, would seem to be large chargers, frequently with 'blue-dash' borders, these were an ideal way of expressing support for the monarch and were intended for prominant display, the footrim being frequently pierced for hanging. Yet, smaller plates, caudle-cups, mugs, wine-bottles and jugs also advertise the monarch. The iconography is, generally speaking, 'flexible'; some portraits could equally represent Charles II (1660-1685), James II (1685-88), or William III (1688-1702), their general demeanour and royal countenance being, when naively drawn, remarkably similar. In the absence of identifying initials or other circumstantial evidence, one has to look elsewhere for identification. The royal equestrian portrait charger (lot 77) is a case in point, a similar example has been variously identified as each monarch between Charles II and William III. Objects commemorating the unpopular James II are consequently extremely rare and the small Brislington dish is a particularly well-conceived example. The curiously frumpy looking Queen Mary portrait charger could represent either Mary of Modena, wife of James II or more likely in this instance, Queen Mary, James II's daughter, who became joint monarch with William III in 1689.
The reign of Queen Anne is here represented not only by the fine 'blue-dash' charger with her standing in her coronation robes, but also a fine oval portrait plaque dated 1704. One of the most dramatic events of her reign is represented by a small and unassuming plate commemorating the Act of Union is 1707, the Queen's initials flanking a conjoined rose and thistle representing the union of England and Scotland.
This exceptional series of objects with royal association ends with the small polychrome dish of a standing monarch flanked by the initials GR either for George I (1714-27) or perhaps George II who ascended the throne in 1727.