Wednesday, April 22, 2020

THE CORONAVIRUS AND TRANSFERWARE

by David Hoexter and Judie Siddall



Parts of plates plastered to a wall in the Junagarh Fort in Bikaner in India.

Notwithstanding the title of this blog, we (Judie and David) are not going to discuss the current health emergency. We are only going to say that we hope all of our transferware friends are staying healthy and are following expert advice, in particular, isolate and stay at home if at all possible! And, wash your hands!

But we do want to tell you about what we are doing while we isolate. As previously disclosed (see the March 2020 post), we were recently in India (our trip ended on March 4, just in the nick of time). We are truly thankful we were able to make the trip, one of those "once in a lifetime" events, although perhaps we will be fortunate enough to return. Also, as previously disclosed in the earlier post, we visited the extraordinary Junagarh Fort in Bikaner, west Rajasthan, where we observed early to mid-19th century English transferware attached (literally plastered) to both interior and exterior walls at four locations.


A host of transferware drainers plastered to a wall in the Junagarh Fort. The areas between the drainers are smaller pieces of transferware plates (or other pottery items). The drainers at the bottom of the wall are Chinese Export. Click on the photo to make it larger.

A number of our 13 member group photographed the transferware. We had little time and poor lighting conditions, and one of the four locations is high on a wall, with most of the transferware at least 15 to 20 feet above the adjacent ground. So the images are less than perfect. But, nevertheless, we were able to document the displays.


The surround of this window is composed of parts of transferware plates. Click on the photo to make it larger.

But now, the real work has begun, and this is how the Coronavirus gets involved. We are utilizing our enforced isolation to identify as many of the transferware patterns as we can. It's a challenge, particularly as the pieces range from nearly whole to only a small part of the original piece. (It's a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle.) All the items are flatware of some sort, primarily drainers, but also plates and platters. A few of the patterns are just a maker's mark or other symbols. There are no indications that any of the pieces are tiles.


Willow drainer surrounded by Willow shards. You can see bits of other drainers that abut the center Willow drainer.

Thus far, we (with help from others) have identified 91patterns. We have at least 15 to 20 yet unidentified. There is some notable overlap of patterns between the three primary locations (the fourth location, which we call the Blue Room, has a large volume of Willow, but little else in terms of transferware, although it demonstrates exquisite Indian tiles, sculpture, and painting). The patterns include a large variety of pattern categories and makers, as well as age of production. Included in the 91 so far identified patterns (primarily transferware) are three Chinese export drainers, and we also have two painted creamware patterns, not yet identified.


Shown is a painted creamware drainer. Possibly Wedgwood. Notice all of the surrounding transferware bits and pieces.

Well, we can't help one little connection between Coronavirus and transferware. And it is minimal, to say the least. We searched the Transferware Collectors Club Database of Patterns and Sources for patterns which exhibited illness in humans (thus the Coronavirus connection). The current database count is 16, 232 (April 14, 2020). We found just one pattern "Virginia Attending the Sick." There are a few related subjects (mainly death), and a number whose subject is hospitals (but these are primarily actual historical buildings). And, there are a few showing sick animals. Our meager findings are shown below.

William Smith (& Co.) 1825-1855 "Virginia attending the Sick Poor" 6.6 inch plate

"The Orphan Child" 7.44 inch plate by an unknown maker, ca. 1830

Ralph Stevenson (& Son) 1810-1835 "Hospital Boston" 9 inch plate, ca. 1825

Scott (1800-1897) "The Sick Donkey" 7.5 inch plate, ca. 1840

We do plan to publish our identifications of all of the patterns, as well as further research and findings. Stay tuned. It may take awhile.


Lots of patterns to identify! Notice the hand painting between the drainers. Sometimes there is hand-painting and sometimes there are small pieces of transferware plastered between larger pieces. See the Willow drainer photo above.


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