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Olivia, from whom we heard last week, has written about some porcelain which caught her eye…

I was fascinated by figures in the ceramics gallery, in particular the Five Senses from the Bow factory in the mid-eighteenth century, which was a porcelain factory that specialised in the manufacture of early soft-paste porcelain in Great Britain. The way that the abstract senses — touch, taste, hearing, sight and smell — are personified through a set of English porcelain figures is intriguing. These five emblematic figures, each with a distinctive pose, are all depicted in an intensely lively way, as if they are able to move at a next glance. The one that I found most interesting is Taste (the second one from left to right), which is represented as a seated youth drinking a blue glass of wine. The space between the glass and the boy’s mouth creates a subtle suspension, augmenting the effect of the illusion of movement. The other figures are also appealing and characteristic. Touch is portrayed as caressing a dog tenderly while Hearing revels in playing his lute. Sight is caught at the middle of her toilette, gazing into a mirror and Smell is depicted with a slight twist in her body, who gently turns her head as if being absorbed by some peculiar smell. Following the principle of the porcelain manufacture at the time, the figures are all set on high bases, which appear to resemble the curly shape of waves and are decorated with floral patterns. This set of allegorical figures also has an immensely ornamental function, which is shown through the delicate glazing and colouring. The costume of the figures are all painted with elegant flowers and decorative motifs by skilled hands. The material of porcelain allows a smooth and shiny surface, which perfectly fits with tranquil and serene atmosphere of the ceramics gallery.

I think this will have us all going up to look at the ceramics again…!

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