Passion and Porcelain – inspired by Valentine's Day

Many years ago I was invited to take part in Radio 3's weekly music discussion programme, hosted by the composer Michael Berkeley. The format was based around my choice of seven pieces of classical music, and one further unrelated item - in some ways it was Radio 3’s answer to Desert Island Discs. The other day I came across a note of my selections and realised that it was top-heavy with ‘romantically’ inspired composers such as Beethoven, Rimsky-Korsakoff, Borodin, Prokofiev and Debussy – all exponents of the art of composing music which suggested pictorial ideas. The thought then occurred to me that much of the seminal music I enjoyed in my teens also came under a similar banner and genre – but with the additional depth of having meaningful lyrics and memorable melodies.

Top of the list for yours truly – ahead even of Messrs Lennon and McCartney – was the combined talent of Bacharach and David. Even today, in our weird and wonderful world, their lyrics still have the same resonance as when I first heard them; for example “don’t send him off with your hair still in curlers, you may not see him again” or “wives should always be lovers too” – not to mention that should the opportunity ever present itself I should forever endeavour to get at least 23 hours “from Tulsa” (or should you live south of the Thames maybe “Tulse Hill”). Such music has the charisma to endure and remain thought-provoking and evocative to future generations of lovers, both young and old, although certain phrases such as “hey little girl - comb your hair fix, your make up” are more likely to prompt the love of your life to take up Kung Fu in these more enlightened times !

Whatever your take, the B&D songbook – although regarded by some as middle of the road/elevator muzak – will likely prove to have more staying power than much of the mediocrity we are fed today on the plethora of digital platforms which serve us. My continuous appreciation of both Bert and Hal, along with my penchant for the aforementioned Classical composers, may well appear to single me out as a hopeless romantic; if that’s the case then it’s a fully deserved appellation, and one for which I offer no apology.

So why is it that as the 14th February beckons I, like so many of my gender, find it increasingly difficult to “get it right” ? By that I mean the ability to find right card, present the right flowers (the simple fact that they are made available at four times their normal price does not confer proportionately more depth of sentiment, by all accounts) or to book the right restaurant? After 43 years of marriage you might, quite properly, have expected me to have the mechanics of the event well and truly sorted.


Should, however, the love of my life share my passion for porcelain I cannot help but conclude that Valentine’s Day would be an absolute breeze. Seeking further inspiration, I decided to comb the website of The Hoard for appropriate gifts.

Making a beeline for the collection of readily affordable pieces, I landed first upon the Derby porcelain page where my eye was drawn to a large plate – talk about saying it with flowers! Exquisitely painted with three bouquets of British garden flowers and dating to 1825 here is a piece of antique Derby which is nothing less than eternal Summer – without the hay fever. It may have a hairline crack on the outer rim but this – of course - is reflected in the asking price – something like half the amount you would expect to pay for the same piece in pristine condition, and a very generous discount.
 Such a plate would not have been unfamiliar to the likes of Jane Austen or Sir Walter Scott, should you or your paramour have an inclination towards the romantic novel.

Should you refer your flowers on a more modest scale, then perhaps you might like this circular Derby porcelain plate which dates back to 1782-1800 ? It is similarly decorated with three floral bouquets set against a warm, white porcelain of scalloped form, has a gilt rim it is in good condition. The reverse is painted in puce with the Derby mark of a D beneath crossed batons and a crown.


A third option worth consideration could be the Derby porcelain figure of a putto. Depicted in an upright stance and holding a basket of flowers, this little fellow dates back to 1785 and the reign of George III. Had he sported a pair of wings he could have passed for a cherub or – with a bow and arrow – cupid. As a chubby putto this figure and his ilk proved to be enduringly popular with the monied classes since the Regency period, and an asking price of £70.00 is far short of a ‘Kings Ransom’, for a piece which has clocked up 235 years’ unbroken service whilst remaining in perfect condition. That said, any of these examples would provide the perfect gifting solution for all porcelain purists of a passionate persuasion


In closing, may I extend the fervent hope that all goes well for you, my kindred romantics, on St Valentine’s Day – may your choice of gift, card, floral tribute, dining venue, grand gesture or understated demonstration of affection be as well received – and reciprocated – as you would hope it to be.

With best wishes

Eric Knowles FRSA. TR.


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