This pair of ivory porcelain figures highlight both the skill and craftsmanship of modeller and designer James Hadley as well as representing the craze for Japanese Art that spread throughout Europe in the latter half of the 19th century.
Between 1639 and 1853 Japan closely controlled external trade to limit foreign influence. The opening up of direct exchange of goods with Europe was dramatic; large quantities of imports from lacquer to woodblock prints introduced Japan’s distinct aesthetic. The 1867 Paris International Exhibition included Japan’s first official display and accelerated the growing European taste for all things Japanese.
Royal Worcester was a regular exhibitor at these international shows celebrating design and commerce and the factory’s Art Director Richard Binns collected Japanese art and objects to educate his artists in this style. He also acquired many woodblock printed artist books some by famous Japanese artists like Hokusai and Hiroshige which are preserved in the Museum’s archive today. The factory took these influences and reimagined them for a European market. Hadley’s Japanese Gentleman and Lady combine accurately observed detail of Japanese fabrics, traditional dress and hairstyles with a more European approach to the figure. The metallic glazes and gold are inspired by Japanese lacquers and bronzes.
These figures were exhibited amongst an expansive display of Japanese-inspired wares by Royal Worcester in the 1873 Vienna Exhibition for which they were awarded the ‘certificate of highest merit’. The Museum archives show how vase and tableware designs were also influenced by the motifs and textures of kimono fabrics and asymmetric compositions of Japanese homewares and prints.
Artist: James Hadley
Material: Glazed Parian
Factory: Royal Worcester