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Kneeling Angel on Oval Base

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Artifact Description

The excavation of the SS Republic produced a singular example of a kneeling angel, in this instance glazed with shoulder-length hair, perceptibly longer than that of the other angel figurines, and so assumes a more feminine appearance. The angel is kneeling on an oval cushion, wearing a long robe that leaves the soles of the feet exposed. The hands are clasped out in front of the body at chest level and the wings are tightly folded back. There are no traces of gilt or pigment. Like the other small angel figurines, this example was also quite possibly intended as a token or prize for young Catholic students who performed their lessons well.

Research suggests it may have been the product of one of the many 19th-century French Limoges porcelain factories mass producing goods for the American market. The method of manufacture is unknown, although it was probably cast in several pieces that were later joined. Molding in pieces, whether tableware (i.e. handles of cups) or figural objects, is a normal part of porcelain production. The separate pieces are then adhered together with liquid porcelain slip, after which any evidence of the connection is brushed away. Today, even Royal Doulton figurines, while appearing smooth and crafted of a single, continuous piece, are made by molding heads and arms separately and then attaching them to the main body – a process that is not apparent visually in the end product.

There are several practical reasons for manufacturing in separate pieces, not least the ability to stack together more efficiently in a single kiln heads, arms and wings of similar size and shape. These thinner, more fragile figurine parts are more liable to slump or crack in the kiln, so it would have been far less costly and time consuming if an unattached wing cracked during firing than that of a complete figurine, which have would have entailed discarding the entire piece.

Other Details

H: 6.1cm

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