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ALFRED GEORGE STEVENS, AFTER A MODEL BY (Blandford 1817 – 1875 London)

Seated Lion

Glazed earthenware
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: GRES EMAUX; EMILE MULLER; IVRY PORT PARIS; TUILES et ACCESSOIRES; PRODUITS REFRACTAIRES; PLOMBAGINE
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,

 

 Fig.1 – Alfred George Stevens, Lion, detail, Wellington Monument, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

Fig.1 – Alfred George Stevens, Lion, detail, Wellington Monument, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

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.

 Fig. 2 – William Burten, after Alfred George Stevens, Lion, British Museum, London

Fig. 2 – William Burten, after Alfred George Stevens,
Lion, British Museum, London

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.

As noted by the inscription around its base, our Lion was produced by Émile Muller et Cie.
Muller founded the Grande Tuilerie d'Ivry, near Paris in 1854, which produced roof tiles,
architectural and sanitary pieces for buildings, factories and houses. Trained in the sciences, as
well as engineering, in 1884 Muller invented a special stoneware called grès Muller. This
widened the range of products that Muller could produce and offer, including a broader range
of architectural elements and the reproduction of sculpture in glazed stoneware. His client base
was far-ranging including the Ramleh Casino near Alexandria, Egypt, and the palace of the
governor of Saigon. In 1886 he opened a second factory. Upon his death in 1889, his son Louis
Muller (1855 - 1921) took over the firm, renaming it Émile Muller et Cie. It was at this time,
especially after the introduction of Japanese prints and ceramics to the French market at
various universal expositions, that Louis, ever the entrepreneur, approached artists to experiment and produce their designs in glazed stoneware. Such artists as Toulouse Lautrec,
Grasset, Fix-Masseau, Ledru and Constantin Meunier, to name but a few, collaborated with
Muller et Cie in producing works for sale.

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.