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This charming pair were introduced in 1930 and withdrawn at some point during WWII, before being reintroduced with a band of their most popular figures with a new HN number and paired down detail in the modelling.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.