The present models are based directly on Meissen originals modelled by Friedrich Elias Meyer (1724-1785). For examples of the model see Hermann Jedding, Meissner Porzellan des 18. Jahrhunderts in Hamburger Privatbesitz (Hamburg, 1982), p.225, pls. 243 and 244. See also lot 165 from the Collection of Mrs Fitzgerald, sold Sotheby's, 9 July 1963.
This stylistic link is of especial interest given the coming to light of the four previously little-known, massive figures of the 'Four Quarters of the Globe' which were sold in these Rooms, 12 June 2003, lot 56. Both groups of figures share a remarkably similar iconography, for example, Europe's somewhat ecclectic assemblage of attributes of crown, helmet, book and so-on are identical; America is virtually identical, down to the crocodile and the distinctive form of the quiver; Africa is closely similar, although the large version has a serpent attribute and not a lion, understandably enough, given the massive proportions that a lion would have had to take on for the larger model; even the somewhat enigmatic figure of Asia has the same garland of fruit and flowers in her hair, and is accompanied by an incense-burner (now lacking from the present lot, which has a restored left hand). Their stocky proportions and the rounded features of their faces are markedly similar. The enamelling too is closely related in both tonality and treatment, particularly the painting of America's feathers, the treatment of the robes and the linear, precisely-painted flower decoration.
It would seem therefore that in all likelihood the Meissen models by Friedrich Elias Meyer were the original inspiration for the present figures, which in turn, were developed into the larger and more ambitious figures by a modeller at Chelsea, perhaps Joseph Willems (1716-66).
The Chelsea sale catalogues of both 1755 and 1756 mention similar groups: 'A very beautiful groupe of figures, representing Europe and Asia' (sic.) and 'Two ditto Africa and America'.
For other examples of these groups, from Mr and Mrs Sigmund J. Katz's Collection in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, see F. Severne Mackenna, Chelsea Porcelain, The Red Anchor Wares (Leigh-on-Sea, 1951), pl. 69, nos. 136 and 137. An example of the Chelsea group of Asia and Africa, lacking its pendant, from the Collection of Mrs Peggy Ann Hawkins, was sold Sotheby's, 2nd June 1959, lot 48.