Offered for sale is a 19th Century, F R Pratt, Prattware plate circa 1865.
It has a delightfully gilded borders featuring rococo scrolls, cherubim and acanthus leaves surrounding a pastoral scene. The subject is two women in conversation at the rivers edge, in the distance there is a bridge leading to a village across the river.
The firm of F. & R. Pratt of Fenton was run by Felix Edward Pratt (1813-1894) who saw the commercial possibilities of producing multicoloured pot lids and bases as containers for products such as bear's grease, gentleman's relish, food-stuffs and cosmetics including rouge. Jesse Austin (1806-1879), who had been an apprentice at Davenport before becoming a self-employed artist and engraver, joined Pratt in about 1843.
Austin subsequently left Pratt to go to Bates, Brown, Westhead and Moore for a period of about a year only to return to Pratt's. Of the two, Austin was the artistic influence and Pratt the commercial brain.
Between them they produced a substantial and widely varying selection of what we know today as Staffordshire pot lids and, with the success they enjoyed, they went on to produce Prattware, pottery decorated with the same colour pictures, for a period of some 40 odd years.
Austin was a gifted artist and engraver but he had limited imagination and drew inspiration from celebrated paintings, events and other aspects of Victorian life. He painted the designs in watercolour and then etched the copper plates in order to produce the three colour plates and the fourth black key plate.
The Great Exhibition of 1851 was to be an early high point for the products of F. & R. Pratt. The firm produced a series of what are known to collectors as 'Exhibition Pieces'. These were the best examples of each variety of picture additionally embellished with wide gold bands.
In 1897, three years after Felix Edward Pratt died, there was an exhibition of Prattware in Blackpool. In the same year it is recorded that people started collecting and in 1924 the first public auction was held.
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