Victorian and Edwardian members of the middle-class substituted affordable and plentiful Parian ware for expensive marble portrait busts and statues.
Parian is a fine, matte, nearly white porcelain that originated in Britain in 1842. It was made of kaolin, feldspar, and Cornish stone and ball-clay, then poured into plaster of Paris molds, assembled, dried, and fired. Parian takes its name from fine-grained, semi-translucent pure-white marble found at Mount Elias on the Greek island of Paros. The Elgin Marbles in the British Museum were carved from this stone.Dupuy’s bust of Shakespeare is small (approximately 9” tall). According to his obituary, he would have kept it paired with another Parian ware bust (perhaps a likeness of Charles Dickens) in his bedroom or study.
Most Parian ware was made in Britain by the firms Copeland & Garrett (Copeland & Company), Minton, and T. & R. Boote. Wedgwood made unglazed white china marketed under the name Carrara, but commonly referred to as Parian. A bit of Parian was produced in the United States and European countries other than Britain; for instance, Germany made Parian heads and limbs for dolls.
Parian ware was offered as busts, figures, figural groups, vases, jugs, medallions, and other decorative ornaments for the homeowner in search of a status symbol. “While we cannot have the masterpieces of Michelangelo and Cellini, we can at least have the reproductions,” stated Louis Dupuy.
Hotel de Paris Museum™’s Parian ware and related items consist of one portrait bust of William Shakespeare and five black and white studio photographs of Parian ware statuettes or reductions, perhaps given Dupuy or left behind by a traveling salesman selling items by Copeland & Garrett. A second portrait bust, most likely portraying a favorite author of Dupuy’s, was lost sometime after 1954, and, it is suspected a sixth photograph has also disappeared, but it is not known when.