Enamel (& Metal) Things Nᵒ.6: A Pair of Flowery Wall Plaques for the First Day of Spring (c. 1760s)

Private collection.

Object focus: A pair of enamelled wall plaques in gilt metal frames, depicting flowers in urns, transfer printed and over-painted, c. 1760s. Probably made in Birmingham or the Black Country.

Enamelling was conducted in Bilston and Wednesbury as well as Birmingham, so these plaques may have been name in any of these towns. They have been transfer printed, a process new to this period, and over-painted in vibrant enamel colours. Several butterflies flutter around the flowers.

The artisans making these decorative goods often took inspiration, or directly copied, from a range of books designed for engravers, enamellers, japanners, and other craftspeople; for ladies' needlework; as well as the general interest for the public. They were usually published in sets of six, such as the example below:

A Select Collection of the most beautiful Flowers, Drawn after Nature, after Heckel (1795, reprint from c. 1750-1770 prints).
Held at the V&A. One of a set of six.

See more prints, below:

Sheet one from a set of six; A New Book of Flowers (1761).
'Drawn from Nature' by Augustin Heckel and engraved by Hemerick.
Held at the V&A.

Inspiration for these objects, and sometimes direct copying, was often taken from design books. A New Book of Flowers was one such book. These were sold in folios of six bound together, with the folio above costing one shilling and six pence. This folio included posies of flowers, and although the different species were unnamed roses, poppies, honeysuckle, tulips and irises are all recognisable additions.

Sheet 2.

Sheet 3.

Sheet 4.

Sheet 5.

Sheet 6.

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