Bow Porcelain Factory
Pair of Dolphins
Bow Porcelain Factory, English, Pair of Dolphins, ca. 1755, Soft-paste porcelain, polychrome enamel decoration; 11.1 x 11.4 x 5.7 cm (4 3/8 x 4 1/2 x 2 3/16 inches) Height of tallest dolphin, Gift of the estate of Abby Rockefeller Mauze 78.046.4
England began to produce true porcelain in the 1740s, more than thirty years after the Germans at Meissen discovered the Chinese secret. In 1748, the Bow factory patented a ceramic recipe containing the ash of animal bones. Known as bone china, it was durable and pure white in color but not quite as hard as true Chinese porcelain made with kaolin clay and the feldspathic rock called petuntse. Bow’s version of porcelain, however, was a major advance in English ceramics, and the factory subsequently manufactured large quantities of inexpensive figurines and tableware. Never achieving the quality of rival ceramics made at Chelsea, Bow’s products were aimed at the market’s midpoint. A popular subject of the rococo period, dolphins lent themselves to lively, curvaceous forms.