1840 Clementson Small Penelope of Homer's Odyssey Transferware Platter
A very rare small 10.5 x 8 inch grey historical transferware printed octagonal English platter. The beautiful women's related design is "Penelope Carrying the Bow to the Suitors" from Clementson's "Classical Antiquities" series. This uncommon piece was made by Joseph Clementson (one of our favourite Staffordshire potters) at his Phoenix Works in Shelton, Hanley between 1839-1864. Shelton is an area of Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, and has been documented as a pottery area since 1685.
In Homer's Odyssey, Penelope was the wife of the main character, Odysseus, who was King of Ithaca or Ithica, also known as Ulysses in Roman mythology. She is the daughter of Icarius of Sparta and his wife Periboea. Penelope is forever associated with fidelity, and the name Penelope has that meaning.
Odysseus was away for 10 years fighting the Trojans in the Trojan War of 1184 BC. He spent another 10 years trying to get back to Penelope, and was assumed dead. His wife Penelope had many suitors (whom she loathed) while waiting. She declares she would marry one of them when she finishes weaving an intricate piece on her loom. Alas, at night, she unravels her yarns to delay her declaration, as her heart was still with her husband. She finally decrees that she will marry the one who can string up Odysseus' rigid bow and shoot a single arrow through 12 axe heads.
In this early Victorian platter, Penelope is shown carrying the bow to the suitors, who are drinking and celebrating, preparing for their feat in the halls of Penelope's Greek palace. The wonderful story is that Odysseus returns, disguising himself as a beggar, only to find that Penelope has waited and remained faithful to him.
The contest begins, and of course none can string the bow but one, Odysseus in disguise. He wins the contest, slaughters the suitors, and reveals himself to the stunned Penelope, thus showing the mythical triumph of the returning hero.
This small and striking platter has a fabulous printed mark including a registration diamond mark at bottom. From 1842-1883 the British Patent Office issued a diamond mark along with a registration number to show a design had been registered.
The beautiful graphic backmark reads:
Penelope Carrying the Bow to the Suitors
Clementson Classical Antiquities
(The mark is an armorial crest with a Phoenix at center, for his Phoenix Works) There is also a tiny incised number on back, which appears as "35".
The other Clementson patterns in this series are "Nestor’s Sacrifice", "Diomed Casting His Spear Against Mars", "Phemius Singing to the Suitors" and "Ulysses at the Table of Circe". The thick border is deep and rich with beautiful Victorian motifs of scrolls, urns, floral and botanical elements and a running edge. It is known to exist in blue, brown and this grey with a very light touch of green.
Condition: There is a small shallow chip on top rim at the 8 o'clock position. There is some yellowing discolouration and minor wear and scratches from use. The back has two solid hairlines and firing imperfections, as seen in all photos. It displays beautifully.
This lovely old 180 year old plate, meat plate, small ashet, dish or platter was found in Oswestry, Shropshire, England, close to the Wales or Welsh border. It is historically rare and unusual and we were thrilled to find it. It is small, about the size of a laptop screen, just so that you are aware. Small, uncommon and beautiful. We doubt we will ever have another.
Size: 10.5 x 8 inch
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