Worcester porcelain saucer printed with a figure of Frederick II of Prussia


British Museum

British Museum

The Worcester factory used soapstone (steatite) in its formula for soft-paste porcelain, and was able to produce thin but extremely durable 'useful' wares. From 1756 the factory pioneered the use of transfer-printed decoration in black over the glaze, and was quick to develop means of underglaze transfer printing.

Robert Hancock (1730-1817) was apprenticed as an engraver to George Anderton in Birmingham until 1753 and probably remained there until his move to Worcester in late 1756 or early 1757. He took with him a method of transfer-printing originated by John Brooks, later of the Battersea Enamel Works. Warmed colour is forced into an engraving on a heated copper plate and the surplus removed. The copper plate is then covered with a damp sheet of tissue and passed and returned through a hard printing press. After reheating, the printed tissue was taken off the copper plate, and surplus paper trimmed away. the tissue was positioned, printed side down, on the piece to be decorated, in this case over the glaze. It was firmly rubbed down before being floated off the piece under water and discarded. The print was hardened onto the piece by heating so that surplus oil was driven off and the print dried. This was only one of the printing methods in use for ceramics in the eighteenth century, and was known at Worcester as 'black printing'. Hancock based this portrait of Frederick II, King of Prusssia (1740-86), on a painting by Antoine Pesne (1683-1757) and the factory made a large number of saucers, plates and mugs with this image. Frederick was regarded as a great Protestant hero, particularly after his occupation of Dresden in 1756.

The monogram 'RH' is either that of Hancock or of Richard Holdship, one of the partners and managers of the factory.

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  • Title: Worcester porcelain saucer printed with a figure of Frederick II of Prussia
  • Date Created: 1757/1757
  • Physical Dimensions: Diameter: 6.90in; Diameter: 17.50cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: glazed; transfer-printed
  • Subject: battle; king/queen; cherub/cupid; tree/bush
  • Registration number: 1887,0307,V.20
  • Production place: Factory in Worcester
  • Producer: Factory of Worcester Porcelain Factory. Print made by Hancock, Robert. Print made by Holdship, Richard. After Pesne, Antoine
  • Material: porcelain
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Franks, Augustus Wollaston