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Standing Praying Angel

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Artifact Description

The religious-themed porcelains recovered from the wreck of the SS Republic includes two examples of an angel standing upright on a circular base, left foot bent and hands clasped at chin level with wings outstretched. It wears a short tunic with a sash around the waist and is barefoot. The base of the angel is decorated with what appears to be a person laying on his or her right side, accompanied by a fish—the latter of which is an important symbol of Christianity.

These porcelains, like the others carried aboard the ship, were likely 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 unclear, although it was probably cast in several pieces. 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 if a complete figurine cracked, which would have entailed discarding the entire piece. As in the case of the other small porcelain angels recovered from the wreck site, these standing angel figurines were quite possibly intended as tokens or prizes for young Catholic students who performed their lessons well.

Replicas of this artifact are available for purchase here.

Other Details

H: 10.6cm

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