- Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 April 2011 00:00
- Published on Wednesday, 13 April 2011 00:00
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A while back a gentleman asked me about this pair of inkwells depicting a turbaned Turkish couple in what an English potter thought might be a typical pose. At the time he thought they were Staffordshire, as had his parents, who had purchased them over 50 years ago. They are four inches high, and although multi-colored, the cobalt blue robes dominate the
palate. They are in perfect condition.
This pair appears not to be Staffordshire, but rather Rockingham, a more refined type of English pottery of the nineteenth century. They are modeled with great attention to detail, and are significant both historically as well as decoratively. They date from the late 1850s after the Crimean War of 1854 – 1856 produced a tremendous interest in all things Turkish across Western Europe.
The War put the average Englishman in touch with the Eastern Mediterranean in new ways, and the potters of Britain responded, as they always did to any new interest, with numerous wares to meet the popular demand. We also can tell that these two pieces came from the factory before 1860, when British makers ceased using cobalt coloring, thus we can date them quite precisely as being made between 1855 to 1860.
The man is depicted with a jug and the woman with a mandolin. The maker probably had in mind their use on a family desk, where both the husband and wife would be writing letters and keeping household accounts, thus they each would have their own inkwell.
Given the quality of the workmanship and the relationship to British history of the period, as well as their having stayed together for over 150 years, this is an exceptional pair of inkwells. They are worth $400, and at the right auction perhaps even more. I advise keeping them behind glass in a cabinet to minimize the need to wash them, as excessive rubbing could damage the applied gold leaf paint.