- Museum number
Plaque; tinted dark green Parian porcelain, with pâte-sur-pâte decoration in white on a dark olive-green glazed ground, depicting a seated female with flimsy draperies writing with a quill in a large book held on her knee and supported from below by a cupid, her ink bottle slung from her waist, while a second cupid tears pages from another book; the plaque is mounted in a wooden frame.
- Production date
- 1880 (circa)
Height: 25.90 centimetres (frame)
Height: 18 centimetres
Width: 23 centimetres (frame)
Width: 16.30 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Text from J. Rudoe, 'Decorative Arts 1850-1950. A catalogue of the British Museum collection'. 2nd ed. no. 273.
After training as a graphic artist in Paris, Solon joined the Sèvres manufactory in 1858 as a designer; while there he learnt the pate-sur-pate process and decorated wares for the dealer Eugene Rousseau, who funded further experiments. Solon's work for Sèvres was shown at the Paris Exhibition of 1867, but the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71 halted developments and Solon left for England. He was immediately engaged by Minton & Co., where he joined a group of distinguished French ceramists hired by the firm in the second half of the nineteenth century, including the then Art Director, Léon Arnoux.
Solon's success at Minton was due in part to the Minton tinted Parian body, a material far more responsive to the technique than the French hard-paste porcelain and in which he was able to develop a wider range of background colours. The image was built up in successive layers of brush-painted liquid slip, biscuit-fired and then fired with a clear glaze. The relief is usually white and stands out against a coloured background. The colour of the body is visible through the layers in varying degrees, according to the thickness of the relief, which was finely tooled before firing.
Solon also decorated a number of plaques at home; he used Minton materials and had the finished articles fired by Minton's, for which he paid. Solon's manuscript notes of these plaques are still in the possession of his family and this plaque is listed under 'Année 1884-5'. The subject is not legible, but it is clearly annotated 'C. Monkhouse don', i.e. given to C. Monkhouse (information kindly supplied by Bernard Bumpus, 1992). In 1881 Solon was awarded the Society of Arts silver medal for an olive-green pate-sur-pate tea service (Journal of the Society of Arts 30, 25). Solon produced pate-sur-pate at Minton, training a number of apprentices, until 1904, when his formal association with the factory ceased. However, he continued to make pate-sur-pate wares until he went blind, shortly before his death in 1913.
William Cosmo Monkhouse was a civil servant who contributed in his spare time to several literary and art magazines from the 1860s onwards, as well as writing widely on art history and on ceramics, particularly on Chinese porcelain. His book 'A History of Chinese Porcelain' was published in 1901. For a sketch portrait of him, see 'The Art Journal'. 1892, 197. Monkhouse's collection was sold at Christie's in two parts: paintings and ceramics. The ceramic sale comprised 'Oriental Porcelain and Faience. Old English and Continental Porcelain'. The Solon plaque was the only piece of its kind; it fetched £9 10s., considerably more than any of his eighteenth-century English pieces.
For two further plaques from the Boynton collection, see R.L. Hobson, 'Memorial Lecture on Mr. M.L.E. Solon', Transactions of the English Ceramic Society XIV, 1914-15. Thomas Boynton, FSA, antiquary and collector, was for many years honorary curator of archaeology and ceramics at the Museum of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society in York. His collection of Yorkshire pottery was presented to that museum partly during his lifetime in 1916 and partly after his death in 1920 (see Catalogue of the Boynton Collection of Yorkshire Pottery presented to Yorkshire Museum, 1916 and 1920).
Additional text from J. Rudoe, 'Decorative Arts 1850-1950. A Catalogue of the British Museum Collection'. 2nd ed. 1994. Addenda.
For detailed discussion of Solon's pate-sur-pate, see B Bumpus, 'Pate-sur-pate. The art of ceramic relief decoration. 1949-1922', London 1992.
A paper label on the reverse reads 'Solon plaque' (in a C19th hand) and in a later hand 'presented by L.Solon to W.Cosmo Monkhouse. Purchased at Christie's 1901', to which is added 'Thos.Boynton'.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Gift of Solon to Cosmo Monkhouse
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number