The fluidly modelled Head of a Laughing Child ranks as one of the finest examples of English sculptural porcelain ever produced.

The material, with its glassy body and glaze, and without added tin-oxide, makes the piece firmly attributable to the early years of the Chelsea porcelain factory.

The factory was established in London by the Liège silversmith Nicholas Sprimont in about 1745. It produced functional and decorative objects for the luxury market, and was one of the first and most significant such factories set up in England after the European discovery of soft-paste porcelain.

Sprimont is known to have been a skilful designer and modeller, but was not a sculptor capable of the fluency and complex facial expressions displayed in Head of a Laughing Child. The most likely attribution for the piece is Louis-François Roubiliac, a French sculptor who moved to London in the early 1730s. Roubiliac is known to have worked at the Chelsea porcelain factory. Among his best-known works are a statue of Handel and a sculpted portrait of Hogarth's dog.

Roubiliac probably modelled Head of a Laughing Child directly in clay, with the resulting model then used to create plaster moulds. From these moulds multiple copies of the piece could then be slip cast in porcelain. The work may represent a boy, girl, or possibly an angel, and recalls the continental Rococo sculpture that Roubiliac would have known from his time spent working in Balthasar Permoser's studio in Dresden.

Head of a Laughing Child now joins the V&A's world-renowned ceramics collection.

Artists include


The vendor, Mr. Woodford, discovered the Head in 2011, when he acquired it at a French local flea market from a dealer who believed it to be Italian. The dealer said that he had bought it privately from the collection of a French family. As this is the on

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