We are all no doubt familiar with the archetypical image of an old couple living out their time together quite contentedly and of course that is where the label ‘Darby and Joan’ originates.
Royal Doulton’s great modeller Leslie Harradine will certainly have been familiar with the many paintings and images of this famous pair including this image….
…with its stark similarities to his figures. As you can see both Harradine’s figures and the figures in the painting are dressed in 18C dress and it is from this time that the saying was in common use.
Darby HN 1427 and Joan HN 1422, both dates 1930.
This charming pair were introduced in 1930 and withdrawn at some point during WWII, before being reintroduced with a band of their most popular figures with a new HN number and paired down detail in the modelling. The latter were in production from 1949-59.
An early colourway of Pierette
The 1920s and 1930s were the age of the Pierrot. In 1923 Gertrude Lawrence sang Parisian Pierrot in Noël Coward’s revue ‘London Calling’, during the same era JB Priestly wrote a popular book about a Pierrot concert party called The Good Companions with the late Sir John Gielgud as the romantic Lead and there was even a Pierrot themed variety show which ran for 500 performances between 1921-1926.
Yet, it wasn’t just on stage that this phenomenon could be seen. During this time advertising was littered with Pierrots extolling the virtues of particular brands including Tom Smith’s crackers and even Kiwi Boot Polish, which even today is a brand we may be familiar with.
Royal Doulton naturally cottoned on to this trend and their then leading modeller, Leslie Harradine, certainly had his finger on the pulse of this popular trend with his wonderful study Pierette.
HN 731, 642, 643, 644 and 721.
Originally introduced as an 18cm Figure (model 445) and available in no less than eight different colourways, she was later introduced in a larger size in earthenware as HN 1391 (1930) and again later as HN 1749 (1936) and measuring 23cm. There is a lesser known third version of Pierette, this time in miniature. Never officially produced as part of the HN or M collections, she occasionally turns up to delight collectors. A most unusual flambé version of the miniature Pierrette has also been found.
Versions 1 and 3 HN 644 and 1391
As with all Royal Doulton figures the shorter the production run, the more sought after the figure today. Although HN 644 eventually turns up the other colourways and sizes of her are more difficult to find.
HN 1391 and 1749
For those interested in the origins of Royal Doulton figures I can recommend Reflections by Jocelyn Lukins and Christopher Evans.
Produced briefly around the turn of the 20C, Lactolian wares were proof if any were needed that the Doulton band of artists could equal the work by the great Sèvres and Minton works and is in fact Doulton’s own version of the two aforementioned firms exquisite pâte-sur-pâte ware.
A beautiful Lactolian vase we saw recently at the National Gallery of Melbourne with members of the DCC.
This particular ware uses the same Parian body that John Slater (the original art directed at Burslem) had developed for Noke’s Vellum wares.
An exhibition quality trumpet vase in Lactolian.
Interestingly Lambeth collectors will tell us that they had previously also perfected this technique and among several key artists was one Florence Barlow who used this method extensively in her work. Examples of Doulton’s Lambeth pâte-sur-pâte were shown at the 1878 Paris Exhibition.
The production run of Lactolian ware was brief and thus today it is fiercely sought by collectors. The last piece I recall seeing was this vase at Bonhams in London a few years ago and it sold for a four figure sum despite its diminutive size.
The incredibly short production run was due in no small part to the production cost. Desmond Eyles in Doulton Burslem Wares describes how one medium size vase could sometimes cost £100-£200 and could take nearly a month to complete.
The base of a saucer with the Lactolian name, although that was not always used on every item produced.
Among the small group of artists linked to this ware other than Slater himself, was perhaps naturally Robert Allen who no doubt was responsible for the designs used. It will be of no surprise to also see the name William Skinner, master gilder at Burslem at this time.
A delicate cup and saucer in the Lactolian technique dating to 1902 and carrying an RA number too, telling us today that it came from the studio of Robert Allen.
The liberating period of the 1920’s to 1930’s often seems incongruous to non-Doulton figure collectors who associate ladies in ballgowns with Doulton figures, but those in the know, recall that there are a small group of nude figures produced in the art deco period that encapsulate that movement perfectly. All the figures contained in this small band of lady figures were the brain child of Leslie Harradine, Doulton’s then principal figure modeler.
As if to prove their own artistic credentials, Doulton introduced over a 10 year period several nude studies that confirmed their artistic prowess.
The first we must all know was Harradine’s The Bather, modeled on this contemporary advert for Cyclax bath salts.
There were six different versions of this popular model, with this colourway proving to be the most popular.
The Bather HN687.
In the succeeding years there was a second version of The Bather introduced, shown here. Although a different model, she was obviously intended to be a partner to the original.
The Bather HN773 (second version).
By the mid to late 1930’s tastes had changed and prudery was once more on the rise, and so a last version of this figure was introduced wearing a bathing suit, so reflecting the continued interest in lidos.
The Bather HN1708.
This rather quaint figure produced in the early 1920’s is another advertising figure, but this time it’s purpose is to advertise the once popular Illustrated London News magazine. It covered all topical issues and as well as political comment, satire and stories, it also included full page prints for its readers of modern pictures. It was originally a weekly broadsheet but it move to bi-annual until it ceased production after the millennium.
The Beefeeter is a warder of the Tower of London and not a Yeoman of the Guard as is often stated. The Warder Beefeeter served the Towers prisioners and to protect the Crown Jewels but today they act more as tourist guides.
This Doulton personification of this famous London character holds an actual copy of the Illustrated London News from May 14 1842 , whose print is actually readable. Examples without any text do exist but it is the original that is most sought after.
Between 1977 and 1982 Royal Doulton released this selection of twelve dancers of the world, each in a limited edition of 750. As with all of Peggy’s figures, the range proved highly popular and collectors today are equally enthralled by the movement and spirit they embody. Interestingly, it was not Peggy but in fact Bill Harper who originally suggested theseries and he even produced two figures before the concept was completed by Peggy. These exquisitely researched and executed figures represent all four corners of the world: Africa, America, Asia and Europe.
It is unusual to think of Collecting just clocks but of course there are dedicated clock collectors out there. When it comes to Royal Doulton, collectors are usually happy with one or two examples, unless we’re talking about Kingsware collectors!
Clocks have been produced at both Lambeth and Burslem over the years and even in relatively modern times. Stoneware examples are naturally magnificent and by greats such as Tinworth, although more modest Silicon examples were also produced at Lambeth which can be bought relatively modestly today.
Two “Monk” scene clocks; the right hand one signed by Noke and C. Vyse (not to be confused with the sculptor of Darling HN1)
The topic here is Kingsware and there are a handful of wonderful art nouveau designs that can be found as part of this range. So far (that’s always the way to think) there have been five subjects found on Kingsware clocks, which themselves have been recorded on three shapes.
The five characters are:
A. Night Watchman
C. Pied Piper
Whilst many remain undated, I did once see an Alchemist one dated 1904 and imaging the others to date from this period given their art nouveau decoration.
Rare Jester clock with verse (not shown)
Patience is the watchword when embarking on collecting this series of clocks, not to mention deep pockets! Yet, that is what makes collecting rewarding, isn’t it?