Transfer-printing was a method of decorating ceramics at a low cost per unit. It involved engraving a copper plate with a design that was then printed on to a sheet of gelatin or paper. This sheet was then applied to a ceramic item. On firing, the sheet was burned away and the design fixed on the surface. [27/03/2003]
The Bow factory made tea- and coffee wares with transfer-printed decoration, and the small size and use of transfer-printing here may indicate that this plate was made to accompany a tea or coffee service. If so, it would have been to serve cakes or bread and butter. Plates of bread and cakes can be seen set over slop basins in some 18th-century paintings of people drinking tea. The length of time between breakfast and dinner was extending during the second half of the 18th century, and a snack of bread and butter or cakes would have been a welcome addition to afternoon tea.
Design & Designing
The Bow factory's engraver either copied the subject on this plate from L'Amour, a print by the French engraver Charles-Nicolas Cochin the Younger (1715-1790), or from an English copy of Cochin's print. The engraver Robert Hancock (1731-1817) also copied the design for transfer-prints used at the Worcester porcelain factory after about 1759.
Materials & Making
Although the Bow factory concentrated on utilitarian pieces, it made comparatively few transfer-printed wares, possibly because the printed lines often blur and sink into the soft-lead glaze. The printing here is relatively crisp. Sets of 'printed teas' were mentioned in a factory document of 1756.