DEMYSTIFYING THE BOURNE IDENTITY (SPOILER – IT’S A SUGAR BOWL)
Here’s a quite unassuming piece of late Regency porcelain, notable not for its great craftsmanship or exquisite decoration, but simply because it is a rare extant example of the work of one of the lesser lights of the collective Staffordshire Potteries, one Charles Bourne.
Bourne’s business had a fortuitous beginning in that he was able to take over a factory which had been constructed by Josiah Spode himself, for the use of his son Samuel. Situated in an area known as The Foley, in Lane Delph, Fenton, it was at the heart of a thriving community of ceramicists and as such there was a ready supply of ‘consumables’ immediately to hand for any aspiring craftsman.
For the first ten years of his career, Bourne produced glazed earthenware or unglazed biscuitware before taking the plunge in to porcelain manufacture around 1812. It seems likely that, having taken ownership of the factory, Bourne was able to utilise Spode moulds or pattern books which may have been left there, as many of his pieces resemble those of the more illustrious company in shape and form. However, he made a point of trying to create his own niche in the marketplace by, firstly, adopting a wide and quite unusual pallet of colours with which his wares were decorated; he was able to source these from neighbouring manufactories – taking one or two at most from each different pottery so as to avoid accusations of wholesale ‘copying’. Tea sets and dinner services featured emerald green or striking, cobalt-blue grounds with white reserves which were filled with brightly coloured floral patterns – and often offset by some really very fine gilding.
Secondly, Bourne produced a number of ‘toy’ pieces – small replicas of full-sized tableware, along with a selection of animal figures – peacocks, pug dogs, rams, stags, does, greyhounds, cats – often in sitting or recumbent poses to make them a little more durable than had they been standing on delicate legs. These were decorated in a more natural style, predominantly white but with authentically coloured patches, but they also featured the signature gilt touches too – rams and stags with golden horns, dogs with golden collars, cats on velvet cushions with gold tassels and the like.
Of a more utilitarian nature, Bourne was also known for producing spill vases or match pots – beaker-shaped vessels which would sit at one’s fireside containing wooden spills or tapers. These were of the same general colourway as his other pieces – with ground, reserve, life-like flowers and gilding.
And so, what to make of our sucrier, or sugar bowl? Well, as I said at the outset, it’s an unassuming piece, but as well as being unusual as an example of Bourne’s relatively uncommon legacy, it seems to be doubly rare within that already limited subset. It carries the distinctive Bourne identifying mark (initials over a numeral, written in the manner of a fraction), and it is one of very, very few examples of porcelain from that source which is plain white with gilt decoration. I’ve only seen one of the aforementioned greyhounds with his golden collar that shares such a minimalist approach from the Lane Delph works, so from that perspective, less is very definitely more. I’d also add (very quietly) that with such scarcity taken into account, £80.00 seems an absolute steal of a price – nab it, sharpish!