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The Whimsy of Staffordshire Bocage Figures

Pair of Staffordshire Bocage Cows, England, c. 1815-25 (Lot 401, Estimate: $500-700)

A bocage, says Wikipedia, can refer to a terrain of mixed woodland and pasture, a small forest or a decorative element of trees and leaves. English and continental porcelain figures of the eighteenth century often had trees and leaves, both as an ornamental and colorful backdrop to figures and importantly as an added stabilizer to support the figures during kiln firing. 

By the 19th century, the production and firing of English earthenware were far more consistent, and often these trees were added more for their ornamental appeal than necessity. With brightly colored overglazed enamels, figures were manufactured by a wide variety of potters, often listed as “China and Earthenware Toy and Ornamental Manufacturers.” Marked examples include Salt, Walton, Dale and Tittensor, with many, many more unmarked and unidentified. Dating in general spans from circa 1815- 1845 when less complicated and more affordable flatback figures in the Victorian taste became the rage.

Staffordshire Bocage Arbor Group, England, c. 1815-25 (Lot 416, Estimate: $400-600)
Staffordshire Bocage Gardener Group, England, c. 1815-25 (Lot 404, Estimate: $400-600)

Bocage figures are fragile, especially to foliate backgrounds. Chips and breaks are common, and it is not unusual to find evidence of restorations to some of the branches and leaves. The rarity of the figure will determine how much this affects value. 

A wide variety of subjects appear on the market, some as pairs and some singles. Animals, domestic and exotic, biblical figures, musicians, sporting figures, farmers and gardeners, and shepherds and shepherdesses can be found.

See bocage figures at Skinner: https://www.skinnerinc.com/search?s=bocage

Learn More: Reference books include the three volumes of Staffordshire Figures 1780-1840 by Myrna Schkolne and English Earthenware Figures 1740-1840 by Pat Halfpenny.

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