The decoration, taken from Thomas Daniell’s famous Views of Calcutta published in 1788, is painted by Thomas Baxter (1782-1821), the celebrated ‘Worcester’ porcelain painter who worked for Swansea from 1816-19. The scene shows the ghat (steps) descending from the old Fort William to the River Hooghly.
The inscription to the base references the tragedy of the Black Hole of Calcutta that had cost the lives of so many captured British troops half a century earlier. It reads Within the walls of this fort is the black hole, whose name is eternized by the sufferings of Mr [John Zephaniah] Holwell and his ill-fated companions in 1756.
This plate is well known, having been pictured in the book Thomas Baxter, The Swansea Years 1816-1819 by John Wilstead and Bernard Morris (1997).
It came for sale as part of a consignment from the family of preeminent Welsh porcelain collector Sir Leslie Joseph. Much of his superb collection was sold by Sotheby’s in 1992 but some fine pieces, each bearing his collecting label, had remained in the family.
Prices for these pieces have come down a lot in recent years as the buying pool becomes smaller but this prize (in fine condition) did sell at £5000, the mid-estimate.
Woe to mice
If prices for Welsh porcelain have fallen, then demand for the best examples of Ewenny slipwares is holding up very well.
Recent sales have included a Horace Elliot wing-form jug sold for £6500 in November and a wassail bowl and cover by the Claypits potter William Williams inscribed and dated 1832 that took £15,000 in July 2021.
The April sale at Rogers Jones included a large sgraffito decorated model of a seated cat in a royal blue glaze c.1900.
Measuring 15in (38cm) high, it carries several inscriptions: to the chest the words Morris Gwae llygod – lle bo cath fawr (woe to mice, where there is a big cat) and to the base Jones Bridgend for Evan Jones.
Estimated at £700-1000, it took £2800.