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The Presentation of Prestigious Bronte Porcelain Sculptures to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

February 7, 2015

In 2005 Bronte Porcelain were approached by the Windsor and Eton Association of Royal Warrant Holders, who wanted to commission a special gift for the eightieth birthday of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II. The item in question was a one-off sculpture of Her Majesty’s favourite riding pony, Balmoral Curlew.


Bronte’s sculptor undertook the task of creating the original model, in preparation for which he took no fewer than 500 photographs of Balmoral Curlew from every angle. The finished model was painted by Tracey Arrowsmith, and the mahogany plinth incorporated bone china panels featuring images of Windsor and Balmoral Castles, hand-painted by Tony Young. The model was presented to Her Majesty at Windsor Castle in 2006 and is now part of her private collection.


Four years later, it was the Royal Warrant Holders Association itself that approached Bronte Porcelain to commission another unique piece, this time to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of The Queen’s coronation.  The Association wanted to create a sculpture of Her Majesty’s granddaughter, Zara Phillips, on her horse Toytown, with whom she had won numerous medals at equestrian events, including a gold at the World Equestrian Games at Aachen in 2006. Knowing that only the most highly skilled ceramic artists and craftspeople could rise to the challenge of capturing the pair in action, and aware of the success of the earlier commission, the Association selected Bronte for the challenge. Bronte’s sculptor Graeme Gordon was tasked to create the original model, and it was decided to depict Zara Phillips and Toytown clearing the water jump on their way to winning the gold medal at Aachen. As well as going to meet Toytown, Graeme took advice from, among others, The Queen’s head groom Terry Pendry, John Horrell of Dodson and Horrell and even Zara Phillips herself.

It took more than a year before the model was finally finished to everyone’s satisfaction, at which point the moulds from which the finished piece would be cast were blocked; a challenging task as it involved the cutting up of the original sculpture to create 24 separate pieces capable of being cast in a mould. Phil Davis and Marc Hodgkiss then cast each individual piece, and used liquid clay to assemble them into the finished model, which was then fired in the kiln.


After glazing, the decoration of the model, like that of the earlier sculpture, was again entrusted to two of Bronte’s most senior painters, Tracey Arrowsmith and Tony Young, and took many hours to complete, with a further five firings to complete the process and perfect the colours. The fence that Toytown is clearing is covered with petunias, all of them hand-made. The reins and stirrups were crafted from solid silver.

The final touch was the creation of a very special plinth, created by Adrian Smith, manager of the Master of the Royal Households Craft and Conservation workshops based at Windsor Castle. The plinth wood is from a 130-year-old walnut tree that had once stood in the private grounds of Windsor Castle, having been planted to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. The beautifully polished plinth is set with two bespoke ceramic plaques hand-painted by Tony Young with images of Zara Phillips and Toytown at other stages in the event.


 The finished model was presented by Jennifer Emery, President of the Royal Warrant Holders Association, on the 11 July 2013 at a special event hosted by the Association in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. This magnificent sculpture is a wonderful example of the skills of the artists and craftspeople of Bronte Porcelain.


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