A rare Charles Gouyn, St James’s (Girl-in-a-Swing) Bonbonnière, circa 1747-59

This delightful bonbonnière is modelled as Venus and Cupid holding a pair of billing doves and seated on a green mound base painted with pink roses and cherries. The interior is painted with similar small flower sprigs with a shaded green leaf border.

The St James’s manufactory excelled at the production of miniature items, or so-called toys. These tiny porcelain boxes, scent-bottles and fob seals, often richly decorated and mounted in gold were clearly made for wealthy aristocrats to give as gifts and love tokens.

The General Advertiser of 29 January 1750-51 acknowledges the Huguenot jeweller, Charles Gouyn, as ‘late Proprietor and Chief Manager of the Chelsea-House‘. Certainly, Gouyn had been involved with the Chelsea porcelain factory from its foundation, c.1743-45, most likely in a financial capacity, however by 1750, he was established in the fashionable St James’s area of London, from where he was retailing porcelain of his own manufacture. Rent documents suggest that the premises and land used for the production of porcelain was situated to the north and west of St James’s, in the area known today as Mayfair. 

An example of this form was in the collection of Mrs Edward F. Hutton (sold Sotheby’s New York, 7 June 1972, lot 219; sold Sotheby’s New York, 8 March 1979, lot 71).

Condition: The head of Venus has been off at the neck and invisibly repaired. There is a tiny chip to the inside of Venus’s sash at her back, and a few minute abrasions to the base rim, which can be felt rather than seen. The original gold mounts and cover are lacking.

Dimensions: Length across the base 4 cm

The Chelsea Porcelain Toys: Scent-bottles, Bonbonnieres, Etuis, Seals and Statuettes, made at the Chelsea Factory, 1745-1769 & Derby Chelsea, 1770-1784, G.E. Bryant (The Medici Society, 1925).

Chelsea Porcelain, Elizabeth Adams (The British Museum Press, 2001).