King George III by Sir William Beechy, 1799-1800, oil on canvas, National Portrait Gallery, London. George III was on the throne from 1760-1820. When this portrait was painted, my cream jug was being forged in London.
The Georgian Era spanned the reign of 5 Hanoverian monarchs of Great Britain from 1715-1837. In 1837, the last Hanoverian monarch, Queen Victoria, ascended the throne which she occupied until 1901 giving her name to the Victorian Era which spanned most of the 19th century. The 2 cream jugs discussed in this post are just small examples of Georgian cultural production. They do, however, illustrate the transition from the neoclassicism of the late 18th and early 19th century to the Rococo Revival style of the 19th century which began in the reign of George IV and continued into the Victorian period and was part of the historicism that permeated most of that era.
The George III cream jug in my collection was made in London in 1799. The maker’s mark is unfortunately unreadable. The jug has a traditional, yet modified neoclassical helmet shape with the added detail of a lobed body and a gilt interior.
Below the spout and above the lobed section of the creamer there is an area of engraved decoration. The motif is a guilloche- a repetitive architectural pattern used in classical Greek and Roman architecture as well as neo-classical architecture. It consists of two ribbons winding around a series of regular central points. These central points are sometimes blank, but may also contain a figure. On the George III cream jug the central points contain a flower.
At the base of the creamer there is a band of stylized, engraved acanthus leaf decoration. The acanthus leaf is another common motif in neoclassical design.
George IV as Prince Regent by Thomas Lawrence, 1816, oil on canvas, Vatican Museum. George IV was regent for his father George III during his madness from 1811-1820. He was King from 1820-1830. Where does he get that fabulous hair?!?!?
In contrast to the neoclassical style of the 1799 cream jug, the George IV creamer made in 1824 in London by George Knight represents the first steps in a new direction of design. Beginning in the 1820’s an interest in the Rococo style of the 18th century gathered momentum and the Rococo Revival was born.
Made in 1824 this George IV cream jug demonstrates the inception of the Rococo Revival style. While the jug still vaguely maintains the neoclassical helmet shape, it has become fatter, more plump in its outline and volume suggesting the richness and sumptuousness of the Rococo. Also, it is elegantly raised on little ball feet which also give it an abundance and playfulness that is in contrast to the more sober design of the 1799 cream jug.
Around the body of the creamer is an exuberant engraving of flowers, leaves and fruit. Yet along side this Rococo Revival display is a classical palmette or anthemion which indicates how this creamer is a transitional piece. It still has neoclassical elements of design alongside the emerging interest in 18th century French style.
Also, another interesting feature of this creamer is that on the front below the spout in addition to an engraved G there is a beautifully rendered crest or coat of arms. It consists of a border with a Greek key design and a buckle. Inside this border are 3 whiskey barrels and a chevron. Below the badge the year “1824” is inscribed.
I have not yet been able to identify this coat of arms, but will do further research soon. Perhaps there was a family whose surname began with the letter G. They lived in London in the early 19th century and used this cream jug when serving tea to their guests. Being able to identify the family to whom this piece of sterling belonged would be a wonderful thing. It would fulfill all of my desires and fantasies about owning antiques. For me, they bear the traces of their past use and are imbued with life of those who owned them. For me, this George IV cream jug as well as the George III cream jug are alive with the past.