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Pair of Oval Plaques by William H Craft, Dated 1788 & 1789


Maker(s):  William Hopkins Craft (1730-1811)
Date: Dated 1788 & 1789
Materials/Techniques:    Enamel on copper
Dimensions: h 5.675 "
w 3.875 "

Origin: England
Inventory #: 271
Inscription:
Enamel on copper representing Chastity and Faith
EACH SIGNED WH CRAFT• DATED 1788 & 1789
ONE PLAQUE (FAITH) INSCRIBED ON ASHEET OF MUSIC "GOD SAVEGREAT GEORGE OUR KING"
HEIGHTS 5 5/8 AND 5 1/2" (14.3 AND 14 CM.) • WIDTHs 3 7/8"(9.9CM.)

Other:



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This pair of fine enamels was created by one the most highly regarded enamel artists working in England in the late 18th century. William Hopkins Craft, who worked for a brief time in France, exhibited his enamels intermittently at the Royal Academy from 1774 until 1795. He is recorded working at various addresses including 100 St. Martins Lane, 23 Church Street, Soho and One Bedford Street. His enamels are characteristically vividly rendered with bright colors and with the greatest attention to detail. Whether he is depicting allegorical themes, portraits miniatures, images after the antique, or commemorative subjects. Craft's enamels were often designed to be used either as backgrounds for clock faces, decorative mountings on boxes, watch cases and chatelaines. Examples of his work can be found at the British Museum, London, The Ashmolean at Oxford, and the Metropolitan Museum of New York (Untermeyer Collection).

Craft, who often signed and dated his works, is believed to have worked for and with noteworthy individuals. His earliest dated work is a large pair of plaques of King George III and Queen Charlotte (British Museum) dated 1773. He also painted several portraits of Sir William Hamilton (1802, British Museum & Ashmolean) and was affiliated with Josiah Wedgwood and Matthew Boulton, for whom he supplied enamel plaques for mounting on a large pair of cassollettes (1787) which were sold by Sotheby's on May 20, 1955 (lot 108).'

The present enamels are depicting the subjects. Chastity and Faith,' which may be considered unusual in the oeuvre of Craft in that they have a religious derivation, being a part of the three 'theological virtues'. Faith is represented by a woman holding a font and resting her foot on a stool, both of which ordinarily would symbolize the rite of initiation into Christianity and one's unshakeable foundation in the religion. Here, it is clearly meant to convey the people's unshakeable belief in their King, George III (k. 1760-1820). The whole scene is filled with Royal symbols - a crown, scepter, a sheet of music with lyrics from the British National Anthem with the first line praising the King - all of which allude to not only an unfailing faith in the sovereign, but also to his mortality, with suggestive elements of a pocketwatch (in the font) symbolizing the passing of time and a funerary urn draped with a purple cloth, the traditional color of death. Chastity is represented by a woman wearing a veil, with two doves by her side, conveying the message that once the two are separated, the birds never take on another mate. Here that very notion is unconventionally expressed by the figure holding out the ring from her marriage ceremony, expressly confirming her devotion to her beloved.


Related literature:


Aubrey J. Toppin, 'William Hopkins Craft, Enamel Painter', in Transactions of the English Ceramic Circle, vol. 4, pt. 4, p. 17, pi. 17b.

Erika Speel, Dictionary of Enamelling, Ashgate Publishing, 1998.

NOTES:

'One other plaque, depicting The Goddess of the Arts, and a clock face depicting an allegory of Peace and Innocence (dated 1786) were sold at Sotheby's London on November 9, 1995, lots 52 and 53.

'These were probably accompanied at one time with a figure of 'Hope'.