By the late nineteenth century, porcelain was being used to imitate all kinds of media including metals, lacquer, marble, ivory, horn, precious and semiprecious stones, and enamel. In this stunning example, the Worcester Royal Porcelain Company uses an experimental rich dark green porcelain to imitate India’s metal enameled ware. The body, suggesting a green enamel, contrasts dramatically with an exotically colored central floral decoration inside a black band. A gilt outline surrounds the decoration and the band, and the vessel replicates the Indian use of enamel on gold.
In 1876, when the vase was made, the British were fascinated with India and with all things Oriental. English rule had been established in India in 1774 with the appointment of the first British governor general. By the 1860s, Indian imports of furniture and furnishings were so abundant in England that they were considered common household items. Thus it is not surprising that the Worcester Royal Porcelain Company, the finest producer of imitations in porcelain at that time, chose to imitate an Indian product.
This vase, or one just like it, was exhibited in Paris during the 1878 Universal Exposition, and is pictured in the Art Journal’s “Illustrated Catalogue of the Paris International Exhibition [of 1878].” The Art Museum purchased it in 1887 from an English agent representing the Worcester Royal Porcelain Company. In the original invoice it is called the “Indian vase.”