- Museum number
Inkstand; bone china, enamelled and gilded, in the form of the tomb of King John; on the lid the figure of the king is flanked by two bishops; the base in the form of the tomb chest, contains three cavities for inkwells, and a pen tray; the base is gold, the shields red and gold on a green ground; the lid is black, with the relief in several colours, the king's robes in red, green and gold, the bishops' robes in blue lined with white; inside the lid is a transfer-printed inscription.
- Production date
- 1840-1844 (made;circa)
Height: 12.70 centimetres
Length: 21.80 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Text from J. Rudoe, 'Decorative Arts 1850-1950. A catalogue of the British Museum collection'. 2nd ed. no. 312.
Although Chamberlain had owned the porcelain works since 1788, the company was not known as Chamberlain & Co. until 1840, when the two rival Worcester firms of Flight, Barr & Barr and Chamberlain were united as Chamberlain & Co. with London retail premises at 155 New Bond Street (run by Chamberlain's since 1816) and 1 Coventry Street (formerly owned by Flight, Barr & Barr). Both addresses appear on the inkstand. The Coventry Street shop was sold in December 1844, so the inkstand was presumably made prior to this date. The Bond Street shop was sold in 1845. The united company was not successful and by 1851, when Walter Chamberlain retired, no member of the Chamberlain family was left in the firm. From 1852, the works were run by Kerr & Binns until 1862, when the firm became known as the Worcester Royal Porcelain Company.
This is among the more elaborate of the popular novelty inkstands produced by the factory in the mid-nineteenth century. It was based on a famous local monument, situated then and now in the Chancel of Worcester Cathedral. The effigy of King John (d. 1216) was made in 1232. In 1529 the effigy and lid were placed on top of a new tomb chest, which despite its late date, was still in the Gothic style.
Surviving accounts show that the inkstand was in production by 1841, but the reason for its introduction at this date is unclear. There is no obvious commemorative association, since it post-dates both the anniversary of the King's death in 1216 and the installation of the effigy in 1232, while it predates the programme of restoration of Worcester Cathedral begun in 1857. It is nevertheless of considerable antiquarian interest not only because it is very accurately modelled, but also because it depicts the effigy with its original colours, traces of which were still visible in the nineteenth century, until 1873 when the monument was gilded. In 1914 Canon J. M. Wilson exposed the gilding as erroneous (and it has since been removed), with particular reference to C. A. Stothard's coloured plate of the effigy, published in 1817 in 'The Monumental Effigies of Great Britain' (opp. p. 15). The plate is annotated 'drawn in 1813'. According to Stothard's description the King wears a 'dalmatic of crimson lined with green, the neck and cuffs edged with a gold and jewelled border; his tunic is yellow, or cloth of gold; he is girt with a belt; on his hands are jewelled gloves, a ring on the middle finger of his right hand ... He wears red hose, golden spurs, his feet have on them black shoes, and rest upon a lion.' The colours are accurately represented on the inkstand, apart from a few minor details. Stothard has slightly misunderstood the King's robes in that the green folds represent the lining of a gold mantle worn over the red dalmatic (Canon J.M. Wilson, Was the Effigy of King John in Worcester Cathedral originally coloured, or gilt?' Associated Architectural Societies Reports XXXII, Part II, London 1914, 497). As further evidence that the original colours were visible in the first half of the nineteenth century, Wilson cites a number of other pre-1873 descriptions of the effigy and, significantly, discusses in detail Chamberlain's porcelain inkstand, then in the Worcester Museum (now the Dyson Perrins Museum).
A drawing for the inkstand is preserved in the Worcester factory drawing book (G.A. Godden, 'Chamberlain-Worcester Porcelain 1788-1852', London 1982, fig. 312); it was made in plain white as well as richly decorated. A decorated version cost 4 guineas in 1841; similar tombs with covers altered to form a paperweight sold in 1843 for 4 guineas for a decorated tomb and 2 guineas for a 'stone colour' tomb (Godden 1982, 251-2). Few other examples are known: in addition to the coloured version described by Wilson in 1914, the Dyson Perrins Museum also owns a version in Parian porcelain. For an ivory glazed tomb inkstand with Kerr & Binns marks (1852-62), see Phillips, Son and Neale, 19 July 1989, lot. 182. The inkstand continued to be produced by the Worcester Royal Porcelain Company after 1862, with an alternative version as a casket (H. Sandon, 'Royal Worcester Porcelain from 1862 to the Present day', London 1973, 6).
Additional text from J. Rudoe, 'Decorative Arts 1850-1950. A Catalogue of the British Museum Collection'. 2nd ed. 1994. Addenda.
This model was produced as late as 1876, see Christie's, London, 20 February 1992, lot 353, with date-code for 1876. Other coloured examples are at Preston Manor, Brighton (reg. no. 325171) and at Norwich Castle Museum. See also Christie's, London, 10 October 1988, lot 405. For the restoration and colouring of the tomb in the late nineteenth century, see John Physick in Church Monuments II, 1987, 53-4.
The example in the Worcester Porcelain Museum (Dyson Perrins Museum) is illustrated in S.D. Church, 'The care of the royal tombs in English cathedrals in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: the case of the effigy of King John at Worcester', The Antiquaries Journal, 89, 2009, pp. 365-387, see fig. 5, p. 377. Here the date is guven as c, 1845-8.
- On display (G47/dc10)
- Exhibition history
2015 13 Mar-1 Sep, London, The British Library, Magna Carta
- Only one inkwell survives; the lid has old repairs with rivets and the figure has at some stage come off the lid, resulting in a loss of glaze at the join.
- Associated events
- Named in Inscription: Magna Carta
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number