A rare pair of Chelsea figures of Masqueraders
Lot 62
A rare pair of Chelsea figures of Ranelagh Masqueraders, circa 1759-63
Sold for £16,250 (US$ 27,285) inc. premium
Lot Details
A rare pair of Chelsea figures of Ranelagh Masqueraders, circa 1759-63
Powerfully modelled in mid-dance, wearing foliate costumes made of leaves, she holding a black mask to her face, wearing a headdress of berries, her yellow skirt garlanded with further berries, he wearing a bearded mask and a pointed hat, holding a club made of leaves over his left shoulder, with puce breeches and yellow shoes, both standing upon small scrollwork bases picked out in gold and applied with modelled flowers, 20cm and 20.4cm high, gold anchor mark to both (some restoration) (2)


  • Another pair of these models in the Colonial Williamsburg collection is illustrated by John C. Austin (1977), p.142, pl.130. This pair is also illustrated by William King, English porcelain figures (1925), fig.31. A female figure formerly in the Mrs William Salting collection is illustrated by F. Severne Mackenna, Chelsea porcelain, The Gold Anchor wares (1952), pl.55, fig. 107. The Chelsea sale catalogue of 1770 lists 'Two Masquerade Figures'. A fiddler from this series was sold in these rooms on 6 June 2007, lot 216.

    Horace Walpole wrote of the Masquerade at Ranelagh in a letter to Horace Mann sent from Strawberry Hill on 3 May 1749:

    'In one quarter, was a May-pole dressed with garlands and people dancing round it to a tabor and pipe and rustic music, all masqued, as were all the various bands of music that were disposed in different parts of the garden; some like huntsmen with French horns, some like peasants, and a troop of harlequins and scaramouches in the little open temple on the mount...All round the outside of the amphitheatre were shops, filled with Dresden china, japan, &c., and all the shopkeepers in mask'

    Costumed Masques were held regularly at the Ranelagh pleasure gardens, where all of society went to see and be seen. A particularly lavish masque was held on 24 May 1759 to celebrate the birthday of Frederick, Prince of Wales. Chelsea Masqueraders were traditionally believed to commemorate this event, but the costume or print sources are not known. At least fourteen different Chelsea models are recorded, all of which appear unique to the Chelsea manufactory.

    The act of Aristocrats dressing as Wild Men or as 'Jack in the Green' can be dated back to the late Medieval period. Most famously on one occasion by King Charles VI of France in the Bal des Sauvages of 1393, depicted in a miniature in Book IV of Froissart's Chronicles. The 'Wild Man' or Uomo Selvatico, was a traditional figure of the Venice Carnival, although not usually associated with the Commedia dell'Arte. An engraving by Pietro Bertelli, circa 1642 entitled 'Mussicha usata da mascare in Venettia il Carneuale' depicts a costume of this type.
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