Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Robert Copeland once told me that his pet peeve was the way people misused the word "unique."  It means "only one,"  but most people use the word as if it means "unusual."  However, as far as I know, the large Kali pattern transferware bowl seen in this post is truly unique!

The Indian goddess Kali (Cali) is both a warrior goddess who protects mankind and a goddess of destruction and death.  In some respects, she reminds me of many institutions that provide both succor and disaster.  Her appearance is frightening.  She has four arms:  one of which brandishes a sword and another that holds a human head by its hair.   A necklace of human skulls falls from her neck to her knees.  However, Kali's scary appearance is ameliorated by the lovely border of English cabbage roses and lilies and the rather cartoon-like innocence on Kali's face.  The outside of the bowl shows either god-like figures or humans dressed in ceremonial costumes.  I am not sure who they are.

The pattern is copied from a source print titled "Washing of the Goddess Cali and the Idol Jagan-Nath," Cyclopedia Londiniensis, 1805.  Don't miss it: it's at the end of this post.  It was engraved and/or drawn by J. Chapman.  Jagannath is a Hindu deity who is also know as Juggernaut.  I already knew the meaning of the word juggernaut, as its use in English means "overpowering force of destruction."  Jagan-Nath is the smiling idol on Kali's right. 

My husband always refers to the bowl as the "Kali Bowl."  I know just the bowl he means.  It is unique.

Kali pattern bowl, 11.5 inches in diameter and 5 inches high, c.1825

Center of the Kali bowl

Inside border of the Kali bowl

Outside border of the Kali bowl

Kali source print, 1805


  1. Wow! Wonder who the target market was for a piece like this, certainly not your "typical" buyer of English transferware.

  2. Fascinating post which I read with great interest. Was the pattern used for other forms- cups/saucers, platters, plates etc?

    Thanks, Kelly

    1. I put a query on the British Porcelain and Pottery FB page because I have never seen the pattern anywhere except on my bowl. Robert Copeland hadn't seen it either. Or anyone else who knows transferware patterns. I would love to know more about it.
      Nice to hear from you!