SHAKESPEARE. Parian Bust of Shakespeare. Robinson & Leadbeater, c. 1865 -1880.
18 inch Parian bust atop 3 1/2 inch socle, joined by contemporary brass nut and bolt, the joint sealed with plaster of Paris. Faint hairline fissure from upper button of shirt across shoulder and around to rear. Mild soiling typical of Parian, otherwise an exceptional example notable for its exquisite detail and translucence.
This superb Parian bust of the Bard of Avon is exact in almost all aspects to that from Robinson & Leadbeater pictured in the key reference, The Parian Phenomenon, differing only in size, the slight tilt of Shakespeare's head and subtle facial features. The blouse, buttons, tassels, collar, drape of the cloak, lapel, and sleeve at the left shoulder are identical in all detail to the ten and a half inch Shakespeare bust produced by Robinson & Leadbeater c. 1880. Further, though the smaller sizes for R&L busts were modeled with integral socles, the larger sizes possessed separate socles, as here. Most significant, however, is that Robinson & Leadbeater's designs were original and exclusive to them alone. All evidence considered, we can confidently state definitive attribution to this, amongst the small handful of Parian producers considered to be the finest.
"One of the few potteries to concentrate entirely on the production of high quality Parian, the partnership of Robinson & Leadbeater was established in the early 1860s in Hanley [U.K.]ÖThe company quickly became one of the largest and most ambitious manufacturers of Parian, with a large share of the Home market and an extensive export trade in the United States [whence this example]Ö In the 1883 edition of his Ceramic Art of Great Britain, L. Jewitt wrote:
"'They produce Parian groups, figures and busts in large variety, classical, portrait and imaginativeÖBy giving constant and undivided attention to this one branch of ceramic art (Parian), the firm have succeeded in so improving it in both fineness and purity of body and in tone of colour as to render their productions so far higher than average merit. They have studied excellence of body, originality of design, and cleverness of workmanship as before that of marketable cheapness, and in this they have done wisely. In material they rank with the best productions of many competing forms, while in fineness of surface and careful manipulation they are scarcely excelled.'
"In 1893 the Pottery Gazette noted that Robinson and Leadbeater were 'Öthe only concern left who devote their entire energies to the perfection of that most beautiful ceramic production, Parian'" (The Parian Phenomenon, p. 225).
This bust is unmarked, typical of Robinson & Leadbeater's early wares, but as Godden notes (British Pottery & Porcelain Marks, p. 123) of those produced after the mid-1870's, the R&L mark was found only on figures and groups.
A most attractive Robinson & Leadbeater piece indeed, and rare in this size.
Cf. The Parian Phenomenon, fig. 747.
(To order this item, or for more information, please call 818-222-4103)