Paragon: Victorian Toiletries

Clockwise from rear left: lidded commode (moderate crazing over bottom inside), ewer (11.5″ h), shaving mug, soap dish (in three parts), and toothbrush glass.

The basin (16″ dia. x 5.25″ deep) has a short hairline crack that does not affect its ability to hold plenty of water for your morning ablutions.

This scarce set of polychrome transferware dates to the period of the Aesthetic Movement, when Orientalism, particularly all things Japanese, had captured the Victorian imagination. This particular set was manufactured by Powell, Bishop and Stonier in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England. The company registered it as part of their Oriental Ivory series in December of 1880, with the pattern name of Paragon.

The various marks found on the base of articles in this set indicate the pattern (Paragon) and maker (P.B.& S. below the fan handle), the Oriental Ivory series mark, and the registration information (contained in the diamond). The number is the pattern number, and the squiggle is the decorator’s mark. Decorators were paid by the item.

Most transferware came in monochrome, the pattern applied from transfer paper in one colour to the body of the vessel. The vessel was then fired at a low temperature. In the case of this set, the colour was then added by hand, fixed by firing then overglazed and fired again, producing a uniform sheen over the whole finished vessel. The monochrome and most common version of the Paragon pattern is in brown. The colour version accounts for only about 20% of production.

Most transferware, about 90%, was made in Staffordshire, England in the mid to late Nineteenth Century. The best known example of the genre may be the Willow Pattern, though hundreds if not thousands of patterns were produced. Flow blue evolved from experiments in glazing and firing.

This Paragon set dates from 1880, when it was registered, to perhaps 1891 when the name and thus the company mark changed.

Paragon Polychrome Toiletries Set (includes all the pieces shown above): $950.00