Hand-painted China Once a Popular Hobby

chinaBy Anne Gilbert

   If you are lucky you had a great grandmother whose favorite pastime was painting china. It was considered an accomplishment for young ladies in mid-Victorian England and Europe. After the Civil War it became popular in America. Prices vary these days, depending on if they are signed, and quality and uniqueness of the item. Gold trim adds to the price.
   The Limoges factory in France was sending thousands of china blanks to America by 1900. They were eagerly awaited by mostly women, who decorated a variety of pieces. They ranged from entire tea sets, plates, trays and even massive punchbowl sets. Blanks were also sent from Europe and China. American factories included Taylor and Knowles, Willets Mfg.and Ott and Brewer. Others came from Belleek, Havilland, Rosenthal and Nippon in Japan.
   I inherited six painted china plates with no maker marks or signatures. Their value is strictly sentimental.
   Many techniques were used by amateur painters. Most often used was the over glaze technique where the painting was applied to a previously glazed and fired surface. The new colors were then refired.
   The first known academic class was organized by Benn Pitman, Director of the Cincinnati School of Design. It was so popular that by 1877 articles on the subject began appearing in The Ladies Home Journal magazine.
   CLUES: Designs reflecting various periods such Art Deco, Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts movement add to the value. Many mediocre floral motifs were done by amateurs as well as artists at the Limoges factory.
   Signatures and dates add to the value and collector interest. After all, china painting was done by people of all lifestyles, some famous.
   You’d be amazed at the variety of forms that were painted: dresser trays and cosmetic boxes, unusual shaped vases to mention a few. Considered a rarity would be a late Victorian “photo album.” It resembles a flat, porcelain waste basket with two compartments. During that time photo albums were passed around at dinner parties.
   All types of painted china can be found on internet sites. However, garage sales and flea market discoveries are usually at give-away prices from $10 up for a plate.
   PHOTO CAPTION: Hand-painted dessert plate. Unmarked. Part of a set of six. PHOTO CREDIT: Anne Gilbert

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