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St. James’s, London (Charles Gouyn) Porcelain Cupid Fob Seal

Item 10881

It is delightful to be able to present a rare example of porcelain produced by Charles Gouyn of the St. James Factory of London. Pieces such as this were previously thought to have been part of the early porcelain specialists of Chelsea's first period of production. Gouyn had been at Chelsea until about 1748 when he severed his association with Nicholas Sprimont. The St. James factory produced quality porcelain of the soft-paste variety aimed at the more exclusive (and wealthy) end of the market. Objects such as scent bottles, flasks, figures, bodkin cases and luxury miniature trinkets for adults referred to as cabinet pieces were the primary products. Some were never intended for heavy daily use as this type of porcelain was easily scratched or cracked.

From its gilt mount to the gilt gold split “O” ring fitting at the top, this charming fob depicts the seated figure of the Roman god Cupid (Greek god Eros) clutching a tablet or book decorated with a flaming red heart. On his back he sports his traditional set of wings and quiver of arrows. Strong and clear colors of pink, green, red, brown and lavender ornament the figure and depict its very individual, delicate features.

On the base emblazoned in French is the expression “Mon pinceau fera l’office”. This is an idiomatic expression “my pen will do”. The matrix is an agate intaglio carved with an image that has been in use since Grecian times. A seated bird holds within its mouth a branch. Over the bird in the form of an arch is the following French expression “J’aime la liberte” (I love liberty). Perhaps the fob symbolizes the sentiment that when separated from one's love, correspondence will have to suffice as the only connection.

Measurements: 1-5/16 inches (3.3 cm) in height; base is 7/16 of an inch (1.1 cm) by 9/16 of an inch (1.5 cm) for the base.

Condition: Good; some wear to porcelain at nose, arm, knees and various additional small high points. The close-up photos give the appearance of marked wear which is not the case. All intact with no cracks or chips; top gilded metal is worn and shows black. The seal matrix is in excellent condition.

Date: Circa 1748 - 1759

Historical Notes: In 18th century England there was an aristocratic tradition of culture and cosmopolitanism. One characteristic of this patrician thinking and “enlightenment” was schooling in Latin classics and the use of French as an international language. During this time it was considered sophisticated and cultured to encode sentiments, messages, posies and the like in French. In addition, the acquiring and collecting of porcelain became a connoisseur’s passion which continued far into subsequent decades.