A rare figure of a Nun, circa 1755-60

This attractive figure is modelled as a seated nun wearing a lilac veil and flowing robes painted with scattered flowers. Most unusually, instead of the Bible, she holds in her lap an open book containing the first bars of God Save the King.

This type of London flower painting, with its sprays of heartsease, carnations and harebells, occurs on Chinese porcelain decorated in the early Kentish Town workshop of James Giles. New light has recently been thrown on the short-lived production of porcelain at Kentish Town, under John Bolton. Bolton was a major player at the Vauxhall manufactory so, with its Kentish Town decoration and similarities with Vauxhall porcelain, could this figure be assigned to that rare venture? 

This figure derives from Chelsea and Bow versions of the Meissen original, modelled by J.F. Eberlein and J.J. Kändler.

Provenance: An English Private Collection.

Condition: Her right hand has been broken at the wrist and re-glued, the glue having now yellowed with age. The thumb and a fingertip are lacking from this hand. The turquoise enamel of the underskirts has misfired in places. The foot looks to have been restored, but of this I am really unsure as the kiln speckling to the red enamel shoe corresponds with the misfiring of the turquoise enamel. Perhaps there were problems with the foot during manufacture. There is a large and fine Y-shaped crack to the body, extending from beneath the left arm, across the waist/lap, and down past the right thigh. There is a short glazed clay-tear to the nun’s left waist, from manufacture. No other damage or restoration. The flower painting is most attractive and corresponds with Giles ‘Type A’ flowers.

Dimensions: Height 12 cm

The Early James Giles and his Contemporary London Decorators, Stephen Hanscombe (Stockspring Antiques Publications, 2008).

James Giles, China and Glass Painter, Stephen Hanscombe (Stockspring Antiques Publications, 2005).

The King, the Nun, and Other Figures, Bernard Watney (ECC Transactions, vol. 7, no. 1, 1968).

Roy Hogarth Collection of Rare English Figures, E&H Manners (2018).

Ref. In their catalogue to the Roy Hogarth Collection of Rare English Figures, E&H Manners discuss the possibilty of a Kentish Town origin (under John Bolton) for five London-decorated figures, including a similar nun.