Having just found an unusual item, I thought I’d share it here. Everything about this Galleon vase points to it being a Charlotte Rhead design for A.G. Richardson (Crown Ducal), but it is missing some vital signs that would confirm it – there is no Ducal backstamp, pattern number, decorator mark or facsimile signature. Despite all that, I shall attempt to outline my view that it is beyond all reasonable doubt that this is an authentic Rhead piece!
The first clue (apart from the obvious tube-lined decoration), is that it does carry a shape number – an incised 161 – which tallies with a known Crown Ducal vase number. The incised numbering practice (as opposed to the moulded versions) was used on earlier shapes, which would date the vase to somewhere between 1932 & 1936. I’ve included a photo of the number in the gallery at the bottom of this page – although it is very feint, it is readable and matches the ‘lettering’ style of other similar Ducal items. The shape number relates to a Ducal vase which measures approx. 21.5cm tall. The item in question actually measures nearer 23cm tall, but as they were all hand-made individually, there was room for error in some items.
Before looking at the actual decoration itself, it is worth mentioning the background colours – notably the yellow at the top, green at the bottom and even the orangey/red central design of the hills behind the ship. They are all finished in a mottled effect, sometimes referred to as ‘sponged’, which was commonly used in Charlotte’s work for Richardsons, especially on patterns such as 4015 Patch & 3274 Stitch.
When it comes to the main design, I think it stands out a mile as a typical Charlotte Rhead motif. Large ships or galleons appeared regularly in art deco design and appear to have been a particular favourite of Charlotte’s. Examples appear on the very early tube-lined design she decorated on an FH Barker Rhead tile, (shown left), as well as re-appearing later on in her career on a Burleighware wall plaque, (pattern 4118). The ship on the plaque is almost identical (despite facing in the opposite direction) to the one on the vase, down to the green vertical bands in the main sail to the orange and red chequered pattern at the bottom of the sails.
Other interesting things to note are the echoes of other Charlotte Rhead Ducal patterns in the design of this vase. The outer sails have a similar look of 3274 Stitch and the hills that form the background remind me of 4036 Omar. This doesn’t of course immediately mean that it must be Charlotte Rhead piece – one of her tubeliners may well have copied an already used pattern – but I think that the actual ‘elaborateness’ of the design as a whole points to it not being by an imitator or a humble paintress!
The final and perhaps most compelling argument comes from the known Crown Ducal Pattern of 3191 Galleon. This design featured on items intended for the American market and was created in 1933. It is a relatively plain design in only two colours and it was not commercially available in Britain, which is where most of Charlotte’s most popular (and decorative) work was sold. My theory therefore is that this variation was produced with a view to it being sold here alongside her other decorative wares for Richardsons. There are similarities between the two patterns – notably the blue trailing mast flag and the central mast itself. Bernard Bumpus mentions that some designs were made that were not given pattern numbers, perhaps because they were one-off trials, samples for Richardson’s travelling salesmen, or simply because the manufacturing costs would prove too costly to be financially viable as a going concern. If that’s the case I think it is a shame that it wasn’t used more widely, as it is a stunning design and different to much of Charlotte’s other Crown Ducal work, which tended to be floral based!
It all adds to the mystery that still surrounds much of Charlotte Rhead’s work and gives us all hope that there are still many more undiscovered pieces out there somewhere, waiting to be found……
This unique vase is now available to buy! Click here for details.