This hard to find ensemble consists of a uniquely configured 18th century Georgian night cupboard circa 1770, and a six piece Victorian Mason’s Ironstone toiletry set for washing and toiletry needs, circa 1835. The washstand conveniently accommodates all of the pieces from the Mason’s set in their appropriate compartments as if it was specifically made for the grouping (see images). The Georgian mahogany washstand features the original slide up and adjustable mirror (tilts back and forth); two top fold out compartments, one to each side, to hold grooming articles (hand mirror, toothbrush, etc); a closed door cupboard to store a chamber pot with additional storage on shelf below for additional chamber pot; and a slide out drawer to keep toiletry necessities and medications.
Shelf below has circular center with “fiddle” splayed stretchers to join the four legs, which end in brass castors. Original Georgian handles to the sides and drawer pulls completes the decoration.
Condition is all original with original mahogany finish. There are some areas readily observable where the wood has separated “in the field” due to shrinkage (see images). Each side and the back of the cupboard reveals two cracks each to the panels ranging in length of 4″ to 18″ (the one in back) . There is also a small 1″ cross crack to the stretcher below and a 4″ crack to the frame which holds the washstand (see image). The joints are fine and the cupboard is very sturdy. Washstand cupboards were utilitarian in nature and subject to much abuse; consequently not unusual to have some losses here and there, especially after 250 years.
Georgian washstand is larger than most found. Dimensions as follows:
36 1/2″ high (closed) 51″ (open mirror pulled up)
20″ wide (closed) 40″ wide (opened)
20 ” deep
Description of Six piece ironstone set follows.
Outstanding and rare early 19th century Mason’s Ironstone (6) piece set consisting of toilet necessities as follows:
Large oversized highly decorated pitcher and bowl for storing water and wash basin
Pair of chamber pots for evening needs
Similarly decorated toothbrush holder, large enough for multiple users
Soap dish with removable strainer dish
The fact that this rare ensemble has survived intact with no damage for nearly two hundred years is remarkable. It would have been an item owned and cherished by the aristocracy. and enjoyed as an art form because of it’s high quality manufacture, in addition to the elaborate and detailed decoration. Also of note is the 8 sided octagonal form of each of the six items (see images). Please observe the elaborate serpent or snake formed handles to the large pitcher and both of the chamber pots (see images). Also worth mentioning is the attention the interior of the bowl receives, with as much decoration applied as the exterior (see image). The interior upper perimeters of all of the items receive the same amount of attention. The pitcher and bowl combination is larger than most that were manufactured during that period, (16″ diameter) made possible by the strength of the ironstone.
The Mason’s mark underneath the items indicates a 1830s manufacture, with the “Mason’s Patent Ironstone China” above and beneath the crown in blue.
The ironstone process was patented by Charles Mason in 1813 who started his company shortly after that date in Staffordshire, England. Ironstone was a stronger alternative than the traditional porcelain and gave way to producing larger and stronger objects because of it’s durability. It became known as “English Porcelain” and limited the importation and marketing of Chinese porcelain. The “Willow Pattern” is used on this set, albeit, a multiplicity of colors is employed instead of the traditional blue and white. The “Willow Pattern” is based on a, so called, iconic Chinese fable about two young lovers denied marriage by their parents; the story being told in images of the pagoda, fence, bridge, and doves in the sky.
This set is all original and there is no restoration. It is brightly hand painted, after engraved copper plate transfers; in colors of rust, green, pink, blue, and white, imitating a Chinese Famille Rose theme. The decorations are quite prolific and very beautiful; also rare to have all the original items still together; especially in such wonderful condition. The Ashworth Ironstone Company bought out the Mason’s Ironstone Company in the 1860s but still produced items by “Mason’s”.
Bowl 5 3/8″ high x 16″ diameter
Pitcher 11 1/4″ high x 11″ deep x 9 1/2″ wide
Chamber pots 5 3/8″ high x 10 1/2″ deep x 9″ wide
Toothbrush holder 5 3/8″ high x 4″ wide
Soap dish 2 3/8″ high x 5″ diameter
Provenance: Owned for forty years and from my own collection having purchased from a San Francisco Estate; April 1979.
Note: “Mason’s Ironstone Set” may be purchased separately without the Georgian Washstand Cupboard. It is listed as “Mason’s Ironstone Toiletry Set” under Decorative Arts.