Back in the early 1880’s John Slater, the first Doulton art director at Burslem was searching for an English china body for Doulton wares. The issue was exasperated by a substantial order from the US for a service provided it was on a china rather than earthenware body. During Slater’s search for a china body, he spent time in France where he met the celebrated ceramic painter of birds, Georges Léonce. This meeting led to a wager between the two as to whether Léonce could produce the same colours on an English china body. The result was Slater’s payment of £50 to Léonce, yet there was a complaint; namely that the plates were not signed. Léonce responded that the signature “was all over. There is no man who can paint birds like Léonce.”
This plate is a combination of Slater’s photographic transfer technique and hand painting on an earthenware body dated 1883, shortly after the originals were painted. The existing parts of the Léonce service are now in the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.