Chelsea Porcelain Manufactory

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Chelsea Porcelain Manufactory (British, 1743-1770), Chelsea Hans Salone Botanical Soup Plate, ca. 1753-1755, Soft-paste porcelain. Virginia A. Marten Endowment for Decorative Arts, 2012.044

 

ABOUT THE ARTWORK

 

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Who Made It?

The Chelsea Porcelain Manufactory, the first major porcelain factory in England, was established in the early 1740s and operated independently until 1770 when it merged with Derby Porcelain. The Chelsea Manufactory made soft-paste porcelain, which is quite fragile but very attractive and can be painted and decorated in detail. The beautiful pieces produced were aimed at a luxury market and mostly sold out of their Chelsea storefront, which was conveniently located near the popular Ranelegh Garden, which due to high foot traffic, provided a constant stream of customers. 

Porcelain is a type of ceramic that is baked at a very high temperature to achieve a translucent, glossy appearance. Soft-paste porcelain is fired at a lower temperature than hard-paste porcelain and does not need as many special ingredients to make. Ingredients for soft-paste porcelain vary but often include clay, ground glass, bone ash, soapstone, flint, and quartz. 


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What’s going on in this work?  

This fragile soup plate boasts various plants and insects that were of great interest to many Europeans at the time. The large leaves shown on this work are convolvulus, which is commonly known as the morning glory. It is a perennial plant native to Europe that can now be found throughout the world. The decorations on this plate are based on the work of German-born botanist and artist Georg Dionysius Ehret—one of the finest botanical illustrators of the 18th century. Later in his life, Ehret moved to England, where he illustrated many of the plants in the Chelsea Physic Gardens. These drawings were included in Philip Miller’s The Gardener’s Dictionary, which focused on cultivating and improving the understanding of plants in Europe.

Though the decorations on this plate are taken directly from illustrations Ehret created of specimens in the Chelsea Physic Gardens, the soup plate design is named after another man, Sir Hans Sloane. Sloane was a well-known Irish plant collector and benefactor of the Chelsea Physic Garden. The label of the "Hans Sloane" style comes from an advertisement that appeared in a Dublin newspaper, which referenced a sale of Chelsea porcelain in Dublin as containing "...table plates, soup plates, & dessert plates enameled from Sir Hans Sloan's Plants." Though Sloane was deceased before these designs appeared on Chelsea porcelain, his legacy and influence in the local botanical community created a lasting impact, and his memory lives on in these designs.


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Take a closer look.

Click on the full image of Soup Plate with "Hans Sloane" Botanical Decoration above to see a larger version of the work. Look closely at the plate and use these questions to guide your looking. Share your thoughts with your family, a friend virtually, or with us by responding to this email.  

  • What plants and insects do you see? Do they look realistic? What makes you say that? 
  • Look around your own house. Where do you see images of plants, animals, birds, and flowers? What objects do they decorate? Can you specifically identify any of the flora or fauna? 
  • Try your hand at being a botanical illustrator. Take a walk to admire the different plants, flowers, and insects you see. If you have the time and are so inspired, pause a moment, and sketch one of your specimens. 

You can learn more about the Soup Plate along with other porcelain works in Taste for Porcelain, our digital catalog, here.

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Image credits:
Chelsea Porcelain Manufactory (British, 1743-1770), Chelsea Hans Salone Botanical Soup Plate, ca. 1753-1755, Soft-paste porcelain. Virginia A. Marten Endowment for Decorative Arts, 2012.044 | Three views of Chelsea Hans Salone Botanical Soup Plate in a circular format, progressively looking at different areas of it. | Friends of the Snite Museum of Art logo.