The Chelsea porcelain manufactory was founded in England circa 1743. It manufactured high-end, soft paste porcelain wares. Nicholas Sprimont, an entrepreneurial silversmith, was the firm’s director, however, few documents pertaining to his tenancy survive today.
18th century Chelsea designs owe a great debt to the designs of Meissen and Sevres porcelain.
In 1969, enameller and owner of the Derby porcelain factory, William Duesbury, purchased Chelsea. The Chelsea-Derby period lasted until 1784, at which time the Chelsea factory was demolished and its moulds and patterns transferred to Derby.
The history of Chelsea porcelain can be divided into four major periods.
The Triangle period (1743-1749), the Raised Anchor period (1749-1752), the Red Anchor period (1752-1756) and the Gold Anchor period (1756-1769)
The Triangle period
The earliest Chelsea wares were incised with a triangular mark. The vast majority of pieces were white, and design was heavily influenced by silver work. Cream-coloured saltcellars in the shape of crayfish are considered highly collectible, while the Goat and Bee jugs – based on a silver model – which were introduced around 1757 were perhaps Chelsea’s most famous pieces.
Raised Anchor period
During this period Chelsea’s soft paste porcelain formula was adapted and a whiter, clearer, almost opaque product was produced. The even surface of this porcelain was decorated in the colourful, occasionally Neo-Classical style made popular by Meissen wares. Many figurines were produced during this period, including animals and birds copied from Meissen originals. Meissen services were also adapted – classical figures, Italianate ruins, harbour scenes and tableaus lifted from Aesop’s Fables all proved popular. Wares from this period were marked with a raised anchor.
Red Anchor period
From the late 1740s, Japanese porcelain (Kakiemon) was extremely popular among the British porcelain-buying elite. Inspired by Japanese originals, as well as its eminent European competition, Chelsea created and decorated its wares in the Japanese style, using accurately rendered botanical motifs copied from Philip Miller’s 1752 work, The Gardener’s Dictionary. Wares were marked with a red anchor.
Gold Anchor period
During the Gold Anchor period, French porcelain manufacturer Sevres was growing in popularity, prominence and prestige. Chelsea duly aped Sevres’ Rococo designs, producing wares decorated with rich colours and lavish gilding. During the 1750s and 1760s, Chelsea began producing toys, bonbonniers, thimbles, scent bottles, small seals and other giftable items. Some os these items were inscribed in French, most bore the gold anchor mark.
Once purchased by William Duesbury – owner of the Derby porcelain factory – Chelsea wares became indistinguishable from Derby wares.
General Chelsea collecting advice and information
Chelsea was Britain’s leading porcelain manufacturer circa 1743, and its wares remain highly coveted by collectors toady.
Considering its director, Nicholas Sprimont’s background as a silversmith, it is unsurprising that much of Chelsea’s earliest output echoes British silverware in terms of design. The Raised Anchor period saw the form move away from the silver-like aesthetic, however, and venture toward a more robust, highly decorated style of porcelain.
With the introduction of more innovative styles, Chelsea’s reputation grew, and the firm became particularly famous for its dessert table settings, often decorated with plants, animals, flowers and fruit. Delicately painted insects were used to cover imperfections and faults. Chelsea’s colourful, botanical designs were named after Hans Sloane – an eminent Botanist.
Small toys and figurines were designed by the talented Flemish modeller Jospeh Willems.
Buyers of Chelsea porcelain should always carefully inspect the quality, condition and provenance of a piece, as there are many fakes on the market. As well as individual designs, factory marks have also been replicated and may not always be a guarantee of authenticity. Damaged pieces should be avoided as they are not considered collectible. It is always best to buy from a reputable source which is happy to give detailed receipts.
An important pair of Chelsea candelabra modelled on Meissen porcelain, circa 1760, sold at Sotheby’s in November 2006 for $96,000.
A rare Scolopendrium Chelsea teapot, circa 1750, sold for $90,000 at Sotheby’s in April 2004.
A rare famille-rose hexagonal Chelsea teapot, circa 1750, sold for $62,728 at Sotheby’s in October 2002.
A rare “La Nourrice” Chelsea porcelain figurine, circa 1751, sold for $47,800 at Sotheby’s in October 2002.
A set of 12 Chelsea porcelain salad plates sold for $160 at Bunte Auction Services Inc. in May 2013.
A group of nine Chelsea porcelain figurines sold for $200 at Susanin’s Auctions in May 2012.
A pair of Chelsea porcelain Dalmatians sold for $100 at Constatine and Mayer in January 2007.
A pair of gilded Chelsea porcelain urns sold for $200 at Northgate Gallery in January 2008.