Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Hunt ~ J F Herring ~ Spode Tablescape

I'm baaaaaack!  And I'm back with a rustic, hunt scene table setting.

The black transferware plates I've used in this setting are part of the Hunt series from Spode Copeland featuring the works of J F Herring, aka The Artist Coachmen, which the Copelands commissioned themselves.  

Each plate has a different, titled scene depicting the various stages of the hunt beginning with 'The Meet' and ending with 'The Death'.

Originally I was going to pair the plates with a tartan of some sort, a riding hat and whip but then I changed my mind as I started putting it together.  I thought brown and black, warm and rustic, romantic and rugged, Fall turning to Winter (pinecones and pheasant feathers meet pine needles and holly...I did this table at the end of November) mostly masculine but a touch of feminism (lace napkins do that trick).   So, what you see is what I came up with.

Each plate rests on a placemat made of real pheasant feathers.

 These vintage, solid black glasses, have the neatest horn shape.  They remind me a little of stirrup cups that hunting men, gathered on horseback, would have a welcome drink from to start their day.  The custom is essentially English and tied to the hunting of fox.  Anyway, they are unique and beautiful and seemed to go with the theme. I'm into themes in case you haven't noticed.  I also used them in a French-ey toile tablescape HERE

I was going to use some black flatware by Hampton but realized I had only four settings (I think this is when I decided to punt the tartan actually) and so went with my Spode Woodland.

I found the napkin rings on clearance at Wally World (Walmart) for like $1 for a set of four.  Wish I'd bought every one they had but I settled for two sets.  They look like tooled leather but they're plastic, or shall I say plastique?  The feminine part to this table...lace trimmed napkins over basic black dinner napkins.  Those lace napkins were my Moms.  I remember her using them at dinner parties she hosted.  You've seen 'em here before and you'll see 'em here again. 

My favorite part of this table was the centerpiece.  I have a small collection of Italian decanters encased in leather.   I placed them on an antique wicker serving tray with tealight candles all around.  
On either side of the tray I placed some mixed Winter greens and Fall foliage of pine needles, holly, evergreens, pinecones and pheasant feathers along with shed antlers.  Extending the arrangement so that it ran the length of the table I added grapevine balls and amber colored pinecone candles to the mix. 
Cool candles, aren't they?

I didn't get many good photos of this tablescape and having the top of my bird cage table sitting in here (see it over there on the right?)  didn't help but...since I'm describing my centerpiece I wanted to also say that in order to balance out the height of the decanters at the center I  placed brown taper candles at each end of the arrangement which also helped extend it as I wanted to.

I'm going to let you all look over a few more pics of the table and then for those of you who like the historical tidbits I like to share then read on because the story about J F Herring (the artist whose drawings are featured on these plates) is really amazing.  Nearer the bottom of this post you'll be able to see some of the variations in this pattern as well.  The black plates you see here are unusual and not the most commonly seen or found.   I have six of them, each with a different scene, and they are available for purchase in my online shop.


Herring's paint brush made him a coachman and he became a famous artist through being a coachman.  His life and career were so interestingly determined by the brush and the whip.

As part of my transfer ware collection, business and love of history I often seek out periodicals and books that tell about the authors whose works find their way onto transfer printed wares.   One such book is The Hunt, Portrayed by J. F. Herring Sen., a 28 page publication by W.T. Copeland & Sons.  The book tells, in short, the story of J F Herring and offers images of examples of some of the variations and pieces from the Hunt series.

John Frederick Herring was born to an established commerce trader in London in 1795.   Though his father intended for his son to follow in the commerce business, he soon realized that young John lacked the qualifications.  It is said that from his toddler years on, John either held a brush or a whip in his hand.  

 Living in Surrey, coaches daily passed the door of John's home and of his fathers business.   John was utterly fascinated by them.  He would eagerly await their passing by.  He spent much of his time at a neighboring blacksmith's forge or an inn where the coaches would stop just so that he could watch the horses.  He never had a drawing lesson but nonetheless he began to produce the horses he so loved on paper.

Young Johns father thought his art to be a "love of idling" and because of those propensities he had not apprenticed his son to any trade.  When John turned 18 he realized that should his Father die, he would be completely destitute with no means of earning a living. This realization gestured him to leave home and seek his fortune.  With little money and no plan, John took an outside seat on The Royal Leeds Union coach to Doncaster, the sporting center of England.  By chance, he arrived during the races and followed a crowd to a race course, where he saw an historic race when the Duke of Hamilton's horse was the winner.  Excitedly, John rushed back to the humble room he had rented and painted a crude rendition of the race he'd just witnessed.  

Days later, completely broke and with absolutely no prospects whatsoever he wandered the streets of Doncaster and passed a coach builder's shop.  He saw a man painting a door to a coach, that of "Commander in Chief", the Duke of Wellington with his prize winning horse, but the horse he painted wasn't recognizable to John as a horse at all.  Herring took a pencil and sketched the outlines of the horse and showed them to the  painter assigned to the task of painting the coach doors.  He was so impressed that he begged John to undertake the painting for him.  While John was painting the door, the coach builder came in and he to was so impressed with John's work that he asked him to paint the doors of another coach.  This coach belonged to a Mr. Wood, who in turn was also so impressed with the painting that he asked John to call on him at his office.  But when John heard that there was an opening as a driver for Mr. Woods he immediately applied for that position knowing that, even though humble, it would provide a constant source of income.  He remained a coachman for the next seven years.

During this time he married and he and his wife had a son.   To supplement his income, John would paint signboards for inns and panels of coach doors.  His work was so appreciated that there were very few inns or coaches along the road he drove daily that did not have signboards which he had painted.  He became known as 'The Artist Coachman'.

One day John and a passenger, Mr. Stanhope,  got into a conversation which led John to ask him to come and see his drawings.  Stanhope was amazed by the "untutored accuracy of the innumerable sketches" and "the spirited appearance of the pictured animals, the radiant gloss of their coats, as well as the lifelike representation of certain gay jockeys in their bright satins".  He remarked, "what a pity to waste your time driving a coach".  Stanhope persuaded his brother to give a commission to paint a favorite chestnut horse to John.  The painting was so well done that it was eagerly shown to the Stanhope's friends, who in turn ordered their own sketches of horses and hounds.  Soon, the shared opinion of large land proprietors and country squires had emerged: John Herring was "wasting his time" as a coachman.  So compelled and sure of their opinion were they that several of them, in their own names, agreed to guarantee constant employment and remuneration to John for a year if he would abandon the whip for the brush.

John was very tempted by their offer and after hesitating he ultimately denied the opportunity due to knowing the poverty he had faced not long before and now having the added responsibility of a wife and child.  The means of a coachman were humble, but they were certain.

Four years later  John's employer had retired from business, and John's  reputation as an artist had grown and exceeded far beyond the Doncaster region.  The offer from Stanhope's friends was standing and at this time John decided to take it.  He spent the next three or four years going from one Yorkshire country house to another painting hunters and their favorite retrievers, horses and foxhounds.

It was then that John was introduced to Mr. William Taylor Copeland, Spode partner and eventually full owner, Lord Mayor of London and Member of Parliament for Stoke.  Copeland offered Herring a house on his own estate at Leyton in Essex and gave him numerous commissions for many pictures, many still in the Copeland family possession. 

Because there was no photography in those days, if an owner of a famous race horse wanted to memorialize the event or animal he would be obliged to have an artist render a painting or drawing.  John Herring became the artist to whom all applied.

As a poor, destitute boy who wandered into the race course at Doncaster I imagine the he himself never dreamed that he would someday be called to paint the winners of that famous race for an amazing thirty three consecutive years and winners of the Derby for eighteen years, not to speak of the many, many others.   His paintings became a pictorial history of the English Turf of 1821-1854 when it saw its heyday. 

Herring's fame spread amongst the general public as well due to numerous engravings made from his pictures.    George IV, William IV and Queen Victoria were some of his many commissioners.   John was given the title Animal Painter to Her Royal Highness.

While at Leyton,  John painted W.T. Copeland's horses, pictures of rural life, and an entire hunting scene series which are depicted on the pieces I've set my table with and shown below.  

The Spode/Copeland Hunt scenes by Herring series is one of the most popular and still very highly sought patterns.
It can be found in sepia and color versions as well as with several border and shape variations.  Below are some examples of these.

I have always liked this acorn and oak leaf border which is found on some other patterns by Spode, including the Ruins series.

Here, a beautiful floral border frames the hunt.
 Some have  a solid green or burgundy border

Black Polychrome (I have two bread plates left and they are for sale HERE along with the dinner plates used in my scape)

A little late I know, but HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all!


  1. What a fabulous post. Thank you for all of the information. What a perfect use of black glass and transferware.

  2. Well I love the little acorn on top of that teapot~the equestrian themed items are so beautiful. It makes me wish I had a horse farm! Glad to see you are back!!!

  3. So glad you are "baaaaack," Nancy! LOVE the plates and the whole setting, especially the decanters and the placemats!


  4. Hi, how exquisite (sp.)! Your Tablescaper has inspired me for tonight's little dinner party at Frog Hollow Farm - I love the addition of the Italian bottles and tray - and the feather chargers are so elegant but work so well with the rustic components of the setting!

  5. It is great to see you posting again, Nancy...I have missed the history lessons on transferware!

    Gorgeous table! The black glassware was perfect with those beautiful plates on the pheasant feather placemats. I love the centerpiece with the tray of old decanters surrounded by natural elements.

  6. Nancy, I'm so happy to see this post. I've been concerned about you.
    Love this table and the hunt scene theme. Thanks for sharing all this fabulous information. Glad to see you posting again. ~ sarah

  7. Wow I love this!!!! My husband is a hunter, and so I love this hunting theme!!!

  8. You've been missed! And you're back with a great big BANG. The Herring Spode hunt series are spectacular. I'm going to go take a wistful look at your ETSY shop. The black horn goblets make my heart go pitter pat. Thanks for inviting us for a peak. Cherry Kay

  9. Incredibly usual. All the special touches you add are impeccable.


  10. Nancy, That is such a beautiful table. I love it so. The Herring series is so perfect. I am loving the chargers and the drinking goblets are just the neatest. Thanks for sharing.

    I did give you a shout out here:

    Come by for a visit.

  11. Nancy, this is so beautiful. You had me at "hunt." lol I can't resist a hunt themed anything...especially a hunt themed table setting. Love this!

  12. Welcome home, Nancy! I hope all is well!!! This is a great table! All of the elements you chose are perfect! The dishes in particular make for a very handsome table!

  13. Welcome back to blogland Nancy.. we missed you and your beautiful creations! This table is amazing. I love how rustic it is. The pheasant placemats are perfect with this. The center piece is my favorite! This is amazing. xo marlis

  14. Nancy,
    Missed you glad to see your post! Loved the hunt scenes and the placemats are wonderful. Your table is so beautiful. This would be perfect for Father's Day or a guy's birthday too. I've got some pewter plates and have been wanting to do a hunt/lodge table. Thanks for the inspiration will have to keep my eyes open for some great hunt scene plates to go with my pewter!
    Miss Bloomers

  15. Your dinnerware and placemats are so pretty!
    Love the centerpieces, too!

  16. Wonderful, informative post. Your hunting scene tablescape is just stunning.

  17. Yeah! I'm so glad you are back!!!! You were missed.

    Love the table and all of it's texture. Those plates are awesome.

    Wonderful to have you be a part of Seasonal Sundays.

    - The Tablescaper

  18. Beautiful table! I especially love the antlers, the black horn-shape glasses, and the black transferware plates. I enjoyed reading about the interesting life of J.F. Herring.
    Best wishes to you and your family for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2012! ~ Loretta

  19. Your tabllescapes are always elegant and lush. I especially like the pheasant feathers. This reminds me of my all time favorite, table, your James Audubon

  20. All I can say is I love everything about this tablescape! I collect Hunt plates too and own several that you've featured.Thanks for all of the information that you share!

  21. Nancy, such a table! I haven't visited for awhile and thought I needed to come and see what you are up to. You are a font of knowledge who knows how to set a pretty table. Love the dishes and the flatware too. Joni

  22. I visited your blog while you were AWOL ;0) I'm so glad you are back. Your table is beautiful. Those napkin rings really do look like leather. The plates are gorgeous and look so nice on the feather place mats. Have a great week, Nancy!

  23. Where can i purchase a five piece place setting in color of the hunt? Please contact me at Thank you very much,

  24. I was looking for images of Hunt Plates and found this beautiful table scape. Just beautiful and such attention to detail. Bravo!!


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