The Lady Ludlow collection is a remarkable collection of about five hundred outstanding specimens from all the major English factories that flourished in the18th century, and represents most of the ‘highpoints’ of English porcelain manufacture in the period 1740-80. The factories of Bow, Chelsea, Worcester and Derby are particularly well represented, with important or unique items from most of these factories. Bow is represented by numerous figures of birds, as well as important groups of figures such as the Seasons, and the cook and his assistant. The factory at Chelsea is represented by one of the earliest pieces from the factory at Chelsea, a rare ‘goat and bee’ jug with the date 1745 incised and the name ‘Chelsea’ incised in the paste, and a slightly later enamelled owl with raised anchor mark of the 1750s from the same factory. There are numerous figures from the factory, including rare models from the ‘commedia dell’arte, figure with ‘bocage’ (leaves) and models of birds. The period of the ‘gold anchor’ period of about 1759 to 1765 (so-called from its mark) is particularly well represented, with an outstanding group of about twenty ‘gold anchor’ vases made in direct emulation with the Sèvres factory in France.
The collection of Worcester porcelain is particularly important, with many large and richly decorated pieces. Prominent is the ‘garniture’ or group of five vases, as well as one signed (with initials) by the painter John Donaldson (few pieces of English porcelain are signed in the 18th century). The collection is particularly distinguished for its coloured ground colours, including blue, green and yellow, the latter two of which are rare in Worcester, but here found on chocolate cups, sauceboats, teapots and dishes. The collection also includes plates painted in the workshop of James Giles, the independent London decorator.
From the factory at Derby, founded about 1750, come figures of birds, including blue tits, mice, bullfinches, canary, goldfinch and people such as a pedlar and his wife, and an important ‘chinoiserie’ or Chinese figure of c.1755. Rare examples of Plymouth and Bristol porcelain (the first factories to make true ‘hard paste’ porcelain like the Chinese) include a tankard with a sihouette of the founder, Richard Champion, as well as two teapots from known services and figures.
The Lady Ludlow collection is one of the great private collections of English porcelain. Formed in the period just after the First World War, it was bought by the National Art Collections Fund on her death in 1945. For many years it resided in the family home at Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire; and when the house was sold in the 1990s, the collection was returned to the Art Fund who allocated it to The Bowes Museum as a complement to its collections of European porcelain.
A new catalogue has been published entitled Catalogue of the Lady Ludlow Collection at The Bowes Museum (Unicorn Press, 2007)