Monday, May 13, 2013


Another of my many favorite patterns is the one known as "Dog in a Cradle".  It was made by both Andrew Stevenson (1810-1827) and James and Ralph Clews (1813-1834).  It is printed in dark blue with a charming scene of a baby and a dog sitting in a cradle while an older brother and sister rock them.  There was some confusion as to what the baby was actually sitting in, but I have owned a few late 18th century ceramic cradles (c1770-c.1810), so I knew the dog and baby were sitting in a wicker cradle. 
Dog and Baby in a Cradle by James & Ralph Clews, circa 1825
As much as I like the transferware pattern, this is also a post about 18th and early 19th century ceramic cradles.  According to Maurice and Evelyn Milbourn, who wrote "Understanding Miniature British Pottery and Porcelain" in 1983, ceramic cradles were possibly used as wedding gifts.  They may have contained a little salt and a piece of coal so that the symbolism would be that the newly married couple would have children and never be without food or heat.  The other hypothesis is that the cradle was used as "wrapping" for a baby or christening gift. 

Late 18th century British green glazed earthenware cradle
I particularly like the Milbournes' writing.  Here is an example from the end of the section on cradles; "It is worth noting that all of these cradles are in pottery, and that no porcelain  examples have been encountered.  The immediate implication is that the nobility and gentry would not use them for presenting their silver spoon or other christening gift, but that the potters were once again aiming at the newly-developed middle classes.  The cradles were probably cheap enough to be thrown away, as we do Christmas wrappings, but we are grateful that some at least were kept to remind us of a charming custom when so many infants had no more than a tenuous grip on life."

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