attributed to James Giles, London, circa 1762-63
The decoration on the present lot appears to be unique. The style of gilding can be attributed with reasonable certainty to the London workshop of James Giles. There is, however, no record of a blue glass service made for the Prince of Wales with gilt decoration. It is therefore probable that this is a one-off piece possibly produced as a specimen for consideration by the Royal household or more likely as a single gift from a courtier. If this is in fact the case, the present lot may be amongst the earliest examples of gilt-decorated glass attributable to the Giles workshop. There were no other gilders of this quality and note working on blue glass in the 1760s. The relative naivety of the execution suggests an early date in the Giles oeuvre. Naturally, the gilder's work improved as Giles received more commissions.
James Giles (1718-80) completed his apprenticeship as a 'China painter' in 1740. From 1743 it is believed that he principally decorated porcelain especially from the Worcester factory. The first published evidence of his decorating activities does not appear until 1763 when he placed an advertisement in Thomas Mortimer's The Universal Director announcing that he was painting 'China and Enamel' from premises in Berwick Street in Soho. He was based there until finally quitting the business in 1776/7. We now believe that the 'Enamel' referred to was opaque-white glass and that during the 1760s and early ‘70s the workshop decorated both coloured and clear glass in gilding.
According to Stephen Hanscombe (James Giles. China and Glass Painter 1718-80) the year 1763 seems to have been a turning-point in his career where his sights rose considerably. Thomas Mortimer described the Director as 'the Nobleman and Gentleman's true Guide to the Masters and Professors of the liberal and polite arts and sciences, and of the mechanic arts, manufactures, ....established in London and Westminster, and their environs'.
Martial trophies of similar composition and execution may be found on a blue-tinted decanter and stopper with a gilded cartouche for BURGUNDY decorated by the Giles workshop in the 1760s (see Hanscombe, op.cit., fig.125 left) and on an opaque-white beaker of the same period and now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
In 1774 Christie's held an auction of Giles's stock which included both Worcester porcelain and glass. Amongst the lots listed in the catalogue are references to 'wash-hand cups' which may be the type of vessel described here.
George Augustus Frederick (1762-1830), later George IV, King of Great Britain, Ireland and Hanover, was born on 12th August 1762 and created Prince of Wales shortly afterwards. On turning 21 in 1783 he established a residence in Carlton House where he lived a profligate life. In later years he commissioned several services of porcelain and glass.
Further examples of glass decorated with the Prince of Wales's badge are the famous group of Royal goblets decorated in polychrome enamels by William Beilby and his workshop in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It is generally accepted that these were produced shortly after the Prince's birth to commemorate the event. They may have been produced as promotional items at a time when the Beilbys were establishing their workshop. Due to James Giles's activities at around the same time, the significance of the Prince's birth as an opportunity for self-promotion would have been instantly recognised.
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