This porcelain dinner plate was made by Spode Copeland on behalf of the agents F & C Osler of Calcutta for the Nawab of Bahawalpur (or to give him his full title, His Highness Hafiz ul-Mulk, Rukn ud-Daula, Mukhlis ud-Daula, Nawab Amir Sir Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi IV Bahadur, Nusrat Jung, Nawab of Bahawalpur, GCSI.) The plate would have been part of a larger, specifically commissioned dinner service. This particular Nawab made other important commissions to European manufacturers and indeed was responsible for one of the most notorious such commissions when he ordered from Christofle in Paris in 1882 an extraordinary silver-encrusted bed which had at each corner four life-size, naked European women made in bronze which, with the aid of mechanics, were able to wink and wave fans and fly whisks that were in their hands!
The plate is hand-painted with an English or Scottish landscape view which includes the ruins of a church, and with the royal coat of arms of the Nawab. The rim is decorated with alternating stylised fuschia bloom and heart-shaped motifs in gilt on a turquoise ground, with further white enamel pearled bordering.
The reverse of the plate is stamped with the ‘Spode Copeland’ mark that was in use by Spode Copeland between 1875 and 1890. This stamp has been over- stamped with the mark of the Calcutta agents, F & C Osler.
The coat of arms used on this plate incorporates both the motto of the Nawab in Farsi, ‘dost sadiq’(‘faithful friend’), and the insignia of the Order of the Star of India, which was founded by Queen Victoria in 1861 and awarded to the Nawab in 1880.
The Royal House of Bahawalpur is said to be of Arabic origin and claims descent from Abbas, progenitor of the Abbasid Caliphs of Baghdad and Cairo. The state was one of the highest-ranking amongst the princely states of India and was accorded 21-gun salute status.
According to Jaffer (2009, p. 142), the use of western-style dinner services in India reflected a trend among the princes for serving food in the European style. Many palaces maintained separate kitchens for the preparation of European food, often under the stewardship of a French or an English chef.
F & C. Osler was established in Birmingham in 1807 and immediately was recognised as England’s premier glass-cutters and blowers. The firm soon emerged as a manufacturer of high-end chandeliers. A London showroom was opened in 1845.
The commission by Ibrahim Pacha, the ruler of Egypt, for a pair of enormous candelabra to place beside the tomb of the Prophet Mohamed in Mecca lead to much interest in the firm. A second, even larger candelabrum was designed and exhibited at the Exhibition of Industrial Arts in Birmingham, opened by Prince Albert, the Prince Consort.
The firm then received a commission to produce the huge Crystal Fountain that stood at the centre of the Great Exhibition in London’s Hyde Park.
The firm opened another office in Calcutta in 1844 to capitalise on the demand for chandeliers and candelabra from India’s many princely families, and India became the firm’s largest market outside the UK. It also made items specifically for the Indian market such as cut-glass hookah bases. The firm also represented Spode Copeland in Calcutta.
Jaffer (2009) illustrates a dinner plate also made by Spode Copeland for Maharaja Umaid Singh II of Kotah which incorporates the latter’s coat of arms.
The plate here is in very fine condition with no chips, cracks or restoration and with only minor rubbing to the enamel consistent with its age. It is a wonderful memento of princely India.
Jaffer, A.,Made for Maharajas: Designs for Princely India, Scriptum Editions, 2009. :UK private collection