Treasures: Parian Piece is charming, good quality

This statue was probably made from parian porcelain, not parian marble.

This statue was probably made from parian porcelain, not parian marble.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

My husband and I have a number of items that belonged to our parents, and we have been unable to find any information on them. One is a statue holding a lamb. It has no markings, but the piece has been in my husband’s family since childhood (he is now 81). We have no idea as to when this was made or by whom. Can you enlighten us?

Thank you,


Dear I.N.:

Sometimes, we just have to do some detective work tinged with just a tad of guessing. In this case, there are two possible materials from which this charming Victorian statue of a girl petting her little lamb could have been made.

One is a special kind of porcelain called “Parian,” and the other is from a white marble that is often called by the same name. Parian marble was quarried starting in the 6th century B.C. on the Greek island of Paros and was much prized for use in in the classical statuary of the Greeks, later by the Romans.

Parian marble is fine grained, semitranslucent and pure white. We understand the material is still being quarried on the nearby Greek island of Naxos. Other types of marble are also white, but Pentelic marble has a faint yellow cast and Carrara marble (quarried in northern Italy and the favorite of Renaissance artist Michelangelo) has a faint gray tinge.

Marble is metamorphic limestone. Pieces made from it are heavy and in unpolished areas look like what it is — rock. Since I.N. did not mention that her piece was rather heavy and was made from rock, we are assuming it is lighter in weight and is indeed Parian porcelain, which originated in England in the early 1840s.

Parian ware — or Parian porcelain — is creamy white with the grainy surface that might be associated with the stone of the same name. The original name for the ware was “statuary porcelain” and the originators were Copeland and Garrett of Stoke, Staffordshire, England.

The firm worked in the old Spode works, and they were in business under the name “Copeland and Garrett” from 1833 to 1847 when the company became W.T. Copeland. The new Parian porcelain was faddishly popular during much of the Victorian era because it made classical and Victorian marble sculpture affordable.

Copeland made it, Minton made it and before long almost every pottery in England was making it. The big names produced beautiful copies of statuary, but the small firms often turned out sloppy pieces lacking in both detail and quality. Many, many pieces went unsigned, and we believe the piece in today’s question is English Victorian Parian ware made in the third quarter of the 19th century.

This is a charming Parian piece of better quality, but the poorly crafted examples have depressed prices somewhat, and the example in today’s question is worth $400 to $600 unless it is unusually large or turns out to be signed with initials in an inconspicuous place.

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