The collections of porcelain and pottery gathered by John and Joséphine are of considerable importance for their size, range and quality. They come from many European countries, and date from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. They are mostly domestic pieces, but offer a comprehensive representation of European ceramics with pieces from almost every known factory.
The largest part of the collection is of French porcelain and faïence. There are many pieces from the royal factory of Sèvres, including a rare teapot of 1758 decorated with peacock feathers on the newly created ‘rose’ or pink ground. There are further fine examples of ‘soft-paste’ or artificial porcelain from Chantilly, Saint Cloud, Vincennes, and Mennecy. The faïence (pottery) comes from Nevers, Rouen and several centres in southern and eastern France. There is an interesting group of faïence patriotique (pottery celebrating political events) made during the French Revolution.
Most of the German porcelain factories are represented, including Meissen, Frankenthal, Ludwigsburg and Nymphenburg. The Bowes’ extended the continental section across the whole of Europe through purchases of modern pieces from the International Exhibitions in Paris in 1867 and London in 1871.
In 1878 John Bowes’ cousin, Susan Davidson, left him her collection of pottery and porcelain which he in turn gave to the Museum. This greatly strengthened the English porcelain, and added many Oriental wares, mostly of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In this collection are some fine Chelsea botanical plates, and Chinese armorial export wares.
The Enid Goldblatt collection of porcelain was acquired in 1988, giving almost complete representation of continental factories, and the Lady Ludlow (1862-1945) collection of porcelain was presented by The Art Fund in 2004, making this one of the strongest collections of English eighteenth century porcelain in Britain.
The 19th century glass collection includes a set of amber table glass, engraved with the Bowes’ coat of arms and horses, attributed to Karl Pföhl, a group of glassware by Salviati of Venice, and a vase, bonbonnière and cabaret set, engraved by Emile Gallé, which are some of his earliest works, commissioned directly by Joséphine Bowes.
The Bowes Museum has been highlighted in Collectors Weekly Hall of Fame which can be seen here