The ‘Mushroom-grey’ or Drab-glazed’ class was first systematically grouped together by Hugh Tait in the exhibition of documentary Bow material at the British Museum in 1959 and identified as the earliest of Bow porcelains.
Characterised by a distinctive semi-opaque greyish glaze and a muted palette derived from famille-rose porcelains.
Perhaps less than forty examples are recorded and our two recently discovered shell salts supported on dolphins are amongst the most ambitious of the forms known.
Anton Gabszewicz, in a recent lecture to the English Ceramic Circle, has convincingly established that this group links the porcelains of the ‘A’ marked group, the porcelains of the first patent of Thomas Frye and Edward Heylyn of 1744, to those of the first bone ash porcelains of Thomas Frye’s patent of 1749.
The muted famille-rose palette echoes that of ‘A’ marks wares as does the way of colouring petals with raised washes of colour.
No examples of this group have been found in excavations of the Bow site which is perhaps not surprising for such a rare group.
The dense washes of colour on one of our salts is typical of the decorating technique of the London enamellers who also worked on Limehouse wares and Chinese porcelain around the mid-1740s.
Our less densely decorated salt is painted with the same palette in a more delicate hand and has the unusual feature gilt decoration.
We have been able to find four other examples of this form: in The British Museum (1966, 2-1,1), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina, Delholm Collection (1986.4.15) and in the Geoffrey Freeman Collection, Pallant House.
Anton Gabszewicz, Bow Porcelain, The collection formed by Geoffrey Freeman, (1982), p. 24, no. 4
‘Bow Porcelain, 1744-1776, A Special Exhibition of Documentary Material to commemorate the bi-centenary of the retirement of Thomas Frye’, The British Museum, London 1959