Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf
Jack and the Beanstalk plate
Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf, American, Jack and the Beanstalk plate, ca. 1885, Glazed ceramic with hand-painted decoration; 19.7 cm (7 11/16 inches) (height), Gift of Mrs. Murray S. Danforth 36.155
China painting became widely fashionable in the 1870s, when ladies took up hand-decorating Chinese porcelain blanks as a hobby. This plate was instead painted by the accomplished and assiduous Helen A. Metcalf, founder of Rhode Island School of Design. Metcalf’s subject and painting style relied heavily on sentimental book illustration. This scene is closely based on the illustrations that Walter Crane (1845-1915) published in his 1875 Jack and the Beanstalk. Metcalf’s composition deviates only slightly, its sparse reorganization a debt to asymmetrical Japanese art. Metcalf’s granddaughter, Helen Metcalf (Mrs. Murray S.) Danforth (1887-1984), president of RISD from 1931 to 1947, gave the plate to the Museum.