ALFRED GEORGE STEVENS, AFTER A MODEL BY (Blandford 1817 – 1875 London)
12 ½ × 6 ½ inches (31.8 × 16.5 cm)
Base: 2 ¼ x 1 ½ x 2 ¼ x 1 ½ inches (5.7 x 3.8 x 5.7 x 3.8 cm)
Incised around base: Tuilles et Accessoires / Product Refectoire Plomb / [Illegible]
Monogrammed under base: H (?) 1899-1900
Alfred George Stevens, born in Blandford, Dorset, was the son of a decorator and a joiner. By the age of ten, he was working in his father's shop as an assistant. Stevens was able to travel to Italy in 1833, thanks to the generosity of the rector at the local parish. He studied in Naples, Bologna, Siena, Pompeii, Rome, Florence and Venice, remaining in Italy for nine years. While in Rome, Stevens attended the Accademia di Belle Arti and was also employed by the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (Copenhagen 1770-1844 Copenhagen). Upon returning to England, the young Stevens was hired as a tutor by the School of Design, Somerset House, London. He remained there until 1850 when he became the head artist at H. E. Hoole and Co. in Sheffield, a company that specialized in bronze and metal objects. By 1852, Stevens was back in London at which time he designed the vases on the railings and the cast iron lions for the dwarf posts in front of the British Museum. When the lions were removed in 1896, some were installed on the railings around the Wellington monument in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, designed by Stevens in 1862 (fig. 1).
The British Museum also has in its permanent collection a glazed earthenware lion (fig. 2), almost identical to ours, which was given to the museum by William Burten in 1903, of Pilkington’s Tiles and Pottery Company Ltd.
The incorporation of sculpture into the decorative arts was quite popular in both England and France beginning in the latter portion of the 19th century. Artists were greatly influenced by the exhibits of Japanese ceramics and stoneware that they viewed for the first time at the Universal Exhibitions of 1867, 1878, 1889 and 1900. Both the English Arts and Crafts Movement and Art Nouveau in France and the Continent were greatly influenced by the Japanese fusion of the fine and decorative arts.
Our lion, the model for which were the metal lions designed for the front of the British Museum, is glazed in a rich green color, with nuances of brown and red. The lion sits upright on an octagonal base, his paws grab the vertical edge of the terrace and his tail wraps around him, almost like a domestic cat. Incised French words that are heavily glazed encircle the base.