Hampshire Cultural Trust

Tile Panel, c1720-1730

The tile panel

 

This rare pictorial panel of 66 tin-glazed earthenware tiles painted in colbalt blue and probably made in Lambeth, c1720-30

The panel is 4ft 6½ins (1.30m) high and 2ft 6ins (0.76m) wide. It portrays groups of people and animals in a European landscape with buildings and trees and is surrounded by a plain border. Each tile is approximately 5ins (13cm) square and is numbered consecutively on the back. This is a particularly important feature because the tiles had been dispersed after being sold from the collection of John Hodgkin FSA, a well- known antiquarian who lived at Richmond in Surrey. He was also interested in 17th century trade tokens and manuscripts and was the author of an important book on delftware Examples of Early English Pottery, Named, Dated and Inscribed which was published in 1891.

The panel was re-assembled over a period of 10 years by Jonathan Horne, a London dealer who specialises in early English pottery. Tiles which had passed into various well-known collections were recovered singly and in groups from sales all over England, having been identified from the numbers on the back. Three are still missing and they have been replaced by real 18th century blanks painted to match. It is thought on stylistic grounds that the original decorator was left –handed. The elongated nature of the trees suggests that the design was scaled–up from an engraving using a squared-paper cartoon. The design would have been transferred to the powdery surface of the unfired glaze on the tiles by pricking holes along the outlines and rubbing powdered charcoal through them for the decorator to use as a guide when painting the scene. This technique was in general use by tapestry-weavers and it looks as if only the central section of a large scene was used so that it would fit the rectangular shape of the panel.

Genre scenes of this kind are found on punch bowls, tea-canisters, flower-bricks and single tiles dating from c.1710-1740 and are very much in an Anglo-Dutch style which became popular after the accession of William 111 and Mary in 1689. Panels of this kind were not produced in the Netherlands, although they were obviously inspired by the South Netherlands Flemish artists of the Breughel school of the late 16tth early 17th century.

It is known that in about 1718, Nathaniel Oade of the Gravel Lane Pottery in Southwark brought over a Dutchman to help him produce tin-glazed tiles in London and a large number of tiles are mentioned in the factory inventory taken at his death in 1726. Tiles were also made at Vauxhall in south Lambeth during the early 18th century.

In 1912, the dwelling house attached to Daun and Vallentin’s Distillery in Church Street, Lambeth was demolished and 6 tile panels were recovered from the pantry. Two of these are in the collection of the Museum of London and three are in the Victoria and Albert Museum and they were probably in pairs because they consist of two vases of flowers, two chinoiserie river scenes and two European landscapes. Our panel is very like one of the latter and is clearly from the same workshop. In view of the fact that these panels are the only ones of the type now known, it seems likely that Mr Hodgkin may have acquired it from the same source.

The tile panel is important and an appropriate addition to our ceramics collection. The tile section has grown steadily and is from several London factories, including six fine polychrome floral tiles given by Major R G Bignell in 1943. A large blue and white punch bowl in the Stevens Collection, bought in 1979, has similar landscape scenes, and another purchase, a small Dutch tile picture painted in blue with figures and buildings beside a canal, made at De Porcelayne Fles (The Porcelain Bottle) Factory in Delft, c1900 and signed by the art director Leon Senft, provides an interesting more modern comparison.

The panel was purchased by Hampshire Museums in March 1989 with contributions from the National Art - Collections Fund, the Museums and Galleries Commission and the Friends of the Curtis Museum and Allen Gallery, Alton.