Royal Doulton Tango

A Reconstructed Catalogue


Introduction

Royal Doulton Tango design

The Tango range from Royal Doulton in the 1930’s must exemplify the best in Art Deco design. The very simple, almost stark, design together with the sharp angular lines make it instantly recognisable and frequently imitated. The registration number, 776716, suggests that the patern was introduced in about 1932.

This page contains a lot of speculation, conjecture and plain guesswork and is an ongoing project. Additional information, preferably accompanied by pictures, is always welcome.

The shapes may have been influenced by the work of Clarice Cliff and the coffee can is similar to designs by Susie Cooper. Others, particularly those with round and ear handles may have been blanks from other ranges decorated in the Tango pattern to meet demand. One, in particular, which is quite distinctive with half cylinder and quadrant handles is the Casino design used in other patterns from 1932.

The design appears to be applied by black or red transfer and then colour highlights, gilding and banding added afterwards by hand brush. All this was overglaze so is prone to wear particularly at the edges and ridges.

The bottom marks consist of the Royal Doulton factory stamp, the Lion, Crown and Knot (usually in green), the word “TANGO” in black or colour, a design number (hand written in black paint) and some painters marks. Sometimes there is an impressed number in the china base itself, usually on flat items like plates and saucers. This is a variable number of digits and the values seen suggest that it might be the date of firing. There is a also usually a number in green next to the crown factory stamp. Add this to the year 1927 to get the date the article was finished for sale. The design number also sometimes has a pair of digits after it; I once thought that this might be the year of painting but they are too random and inconsistant.

There is also at least one very rare set of glassware with the same pattern. I have described this at the end of the page.

Apart from some items that I own, these descriptions are taken from auction catalogues. The price estimates are based on observations over a couple of years and may vary according to colour and, especially, condition. Cups are rarely seen on their own. The segregation into Tea, Coffee and Dinner Services is pretty arbitrary as the items were available individually and could be made up into sets at the customer’s choice. The naming of items is also arbitrary as they could be used for a variety of purposes. The items numbers in the tables below are my own scheme and do not reflect any pattern numbers used by Royal Doulton. I have done this to make identification clearer in correspondance.

Note that the Royal Doulton figurine called “Reflections—Tango” is unrelated to this series.

Fine Bone China

There are two predominant colour designs with at least three other lesser known versions. In all cases the china is fine, white and almost translucent, as fine bone china always is.

Other colours may exist but are even rarer and it is uncertain when they were produced.

If you are looking for a similar design but with a thicker cream earthenware then see below.

The Tea Service (Bone China)

Item Thumbnail Description Diameter  Height  Colours seen Price estimates
BC1 tea cup in tango red Tea cup, pointed handle 89mm (110mm with handle) 70mm Red/Black/Gold, Black/Gold/Gold, Black/Green/Orange, Gold/White/Green Pair or trio with saucer and plate £30–£40
BS1 saucer in tango red Saucer for tea cup, double dimple 143mm 24mm Red/Black/Gold, Black/Gold/Gold, Black/Green/Orange £3–£6
BC2 tea cup in tango black Tea cup, round handle. Example seen was dated 1950. Black/Gold/Gold Pair or trio with saucer and plate £20–£30
BS2 deep saucer in tango Gold/White/Green Deep saucer for tea cup, single dimple 155mm Black, Gold on Balck, Black/Green/Orange
BP1 teaplate in tango red Tea plate, round 178mm 16mm Red/Black/Gold, Black/Gold/Gold, Red/Blue/Blue £8–£10. A blue pair fetched £77
BP2 Small tea plate, round 155mm Black/Gold/Gold
BV1 cake plate in tango red Cake plate, round 224mm (245mm with handles) 24mm Red/Black/Gold, Black/Gold/Gold £20–£30
BJ1 milk jug in tango red Milk jug, rectangular base with pointed handle 84mm (145mm with handle and spout) 73mm Red/Black/Gold, Black/Gold/Gold £25–£40
BG1 sugar bowl in tango red Sugar bowl, oval with rectangular base 105mm x 129mm 65mm Red/Black/Gold, Black/Gold/Gold £25–£40
BJ2 milk in tango Gold/White/Green Milk jug, oval base with pointed handle Red/Black/Gold, Black/Gold/Gold, Gold/White/Green £25–£40
BG2 Sugar bowl, oval base with straight sides Red/Black/Gold, Black/Gold/Gold £25–£40
BP3 Lemon plate 125mm Black/Gold/Gold
BB1 Fruit bowl with wide square brim and round bowl 240mm 70mm Red/Black/Gold
BV2 Sandwich plate, rectangular Red/Black/Gold, Black/Gold/Gold £20+
BP4 a square tango tea plate in red Tea plate, square 145mm Red/Black/Gold Rarer than the round plate.
BT1 a tango tea pot in red Tea pot, small with ear handle and lid with a flatish top to the knob 135mm (200mm from spout to handle) 165mm Red/Black/Gold, Black/Gold/Gold, Red/Blue/Blue £65
BG3 a round tango sugar bowl in red Sugar bowl, round (possibly had lid) 85mm 50mm Red/Black/Gold, Black/Green/Orange
BJ7 Milk jug, pointed handle 80mm 75mm Red/Black/Gold
BJ8 Milk jug, ear handle Black/Green/Orange
BJ3 Water jug, pointed handle 135mm Green? £20
BJ4 a tango water jug in black and gold Water jug, round handle Black/Gold/Gold

The Coffee Service (Bone China)

Item Thumbnail Description Diameter  Height  Colours seen Price estimates
BC3 a tango coffee can in black and gold Coffee can, straight sides with round handle 65mm (without handle) 60mm Red/Black/Gold, Black/Gold/Gold, Red/Blue/Blue pair £30
BS3 a coffee can saucer in red Saucer for coffee can (larger single indentation than the tea saucer) 115mm Red/Black/Gold, Black/Gold/Gold, Red/Blue/Blue
BC4 a tango coffee cup in Gold/White/Green Demi-tasse Coffee cup, sides curved in with round handle 55-60mm (70mm with handle) 55-58mm Gold/White/Green
BS4 a tango coffee cup/saucer in Gold/White/Green Saucer for demi-tasse coffee cup 113mm Gold/White/Green
BG4 a tango sugar bowl in black Sugar bowl, round base, straight sides Black/Gold/Gold
BG5 a tango sugar bowl in red Sugar bowl, round base 90mm Red/Black/Gold, Black/Gold/Gold, Gold/White/Green pair £65
BJ5 a tango cream jug in black Cream jug, round base and handle 75mm Red/Black/Gold, Black/Gold/Gold
BJ6 a tango cream jug in red Cream jug, tall with round base and handle 125mm Red/Black/Gold, Black/Gold/Gold, Gold/White/Green, Red/Blue/Blue 100
BT2 a tango coffee pot in red Coffee pit, tall with round handle and lid with a pointed top to the knob 210mm Red/Black/Gold, Gold/White/Green, Red/Blue/Blue 150
BV3 a bon-bon tray in black Bon-Bon dish 55mm x 85mm 10mm Red/Black/Gold, Black/Gold/Gold £45

Cream Earthenware

Royal Doulton Tanngo in vermilion

This is a heavier weight china giving pieces a more solid appearence, though in the best of them, still with grace and style. It is particularly susceptible to crazing caused by uneven expansion of the base and the glaze with changes in temperature, though not to the great detriment of its appearance. There are usually kiln marks on the bottom of the larger pieces which, at first sight look like chips but are where the piece was supported during the firing of the glaze. There are two predominant colour designs with other lesser known versions. In all cases the base is thicker than the bone china above, creamish and definitely opaque and no gilding is used in the decoration.

The bottom marks are similar to the bone china with the Royal Doulton factory stamp of the lion, crown and cloverleaf in green or black, the word “TANGO” in black or colour, a design number (hand written in black paint) and some painters marks. Date numbers are sometimes not present but some pieces have the impressed firing date, usually four digits; month and year.

In addition to the transfer design, some pieces show a typical deco embossed fan design picked out in colour paint; examples seen include the tea pot and milk jug.

It is becoming apparent that these pieces are often mixed and matched so that you see, for instance, straight sided fruit bowls being matched with casino vegetable dish lids and other such combinations. It is almost impossible to determine if they were marketed together, selected and purchased deliberately or just some unbroken pieces put together because the pattern matched. I will try and record such combinations here but some are almost certainly not original.

The Tea Service (Cream Ware)

Item Thumbnail Description Diameter  Height  Colours seen Price estimates
CC1 tea cup in tango orange Tea cup. Note the subtle differences to the bone china version. Colour to inside rim and straighter drop to base meaning a different mould. Black/Green/Green, Black/Orange/Orange
CS1 Saucer for tea cup Black/Green/Green, Black/Orange/Orange
CP1 square tea plate in tango orange Tea plate, square 145mm Black/Green/Green, Black/Orange/Orange
CP6 Tea plate, round 160mm 15mm Black/Green/Green, Black/Orange/Orange
CV1 cake plate in tango green Cake plate, rectangular 210mm x 180mm Black/Green/Green
CJ1 milk jug in tango orange Milk jug, oval broken-rim base with pointed handle 135mm from spout to handle 90mm Black/Orange/Orange, Black/Green/Green, Black/Blue/Blue
CJ2 tall milk jug in tango green Tall Milk jug, oval broken-rim base with pointed handle 120mm Black/Green/Green, Black/Blue/Blue
CJ4 Tall Milk jug, oval broken-rim base with pointed handle like CJ2 but even taller 160mm Black/Green/Green
CG1 milk jug in tango orange Two handled sugar dish with oval broken-rim base 145mm long 60mm Black/Orange/Orange
CG2 sugar bowl in tango green Conical sugar dish with no handles and an oval broken-rim base 120mm 75mm Black/Green/Green
CG3 small sugar bowl in tango green Small conical sugar dish with no handles and an oval broken-rim base 90mm 45mm Black/Green/Green
CV2 sandwich plate in tango green Sandwich plate, rectangular 330mm x 150mm Black/Green/Green
CVd cake plate in tango red Cake plate, round (design as BV1) 224mm (245mm with handles) 24mm Black/Orange/Orange
CT1 a tango tea pot in green Tea pot, oval broken-rim base, pointed handle and lid with square knob 240mm from spout to handle Black/Green/Green
CX1 tango ash tray and match holder Ash tray with match holder. This one is a slight anomaly as the transfer is in red with the central dot black. The bottom mark is D54*7. 115mm x 90mm 80mm Red/Black/Black
CT2 butter dish with cover in tango green Butter dish with cover 150mm x 125mm (plate), 120mm x 90mm (cover) Black/Green/Green
CC2 tango soup cup and holder, orange Cup with two pointed handles, possibly for beef tea. The saucer may be the same as above. Has also been seen with a small Casino lid but I don't know if it belongs. 100mm 80mm Black/Orange/Orange

The Dinner Service (Cream Ware)

Item Thumbnail Description Diameter  Height  Colours seen Price estimates
CP2 dinner plate in tango orange Dinner plate 264mm 23mm Black/Orange/Orange, Black/Green/Green £15
CP3 fish/desert plate in tango orange Fish/desert plate 247mm 21mm Black/Orange/Orange, Black/Green/Green
CP4 side plate in tango orange Side plate 193mm 16mm Black/Orange/Orange, Black/Green/Green
CP5 Entreé plate 210mm Black/Orange/Orange, Black/Green/Green
CB1 Large soup bowl with rim 265mm 45mm Black/Orange/Orange
CB2 medium soup bowl in tango orange Medium soup/desert bowl with rim 240mm 38mm Black/Orange/Orange
CB3 small soup bowl in tango green Small soup/fruit bowl without rim 190mm Black/Green/Green, Black/Orange/Orange
CV3 Soup dish, with handles and plate 260mm Black/Green/Green £8 + £12
CB4 soup cup and saucer in tango green Soup cup with two round handles and saucer 120mm (saucer 160mm) Black/Green/Green
CV4 Serving plate, small oval 260mm long side Black/Orange/Orange, Black/Green/Green
CV5 Serving plate, medium oval 325mm long side Black/Orange/Orange, Black/Green/Green
CV6 serving dish in tango orange Serving plate, large oval 386mm x 311mm 41mm Black/Orange/Orange, Black/Green/Green
CV7 Serving plate, huge oval 435mm long side Black/Orange/Orange
CV8 a tango vegetable dish in red Vegetable dish, with lid (with casino handle). Sometimes seen without the side handles, perhaps like CVc below. 300mm Black/Orange/Orange, Black/Green/Green £70–£90
CVb Vegetable dish, with lid (casino handle) as CV8 but smaller 220mm (270mm with handles) Black/Orange/Orange
CV9 the lid from a tango soup tureen illustrating the casino handle Soup tureen, with plate, lid (with casino handle) and ladle 270mm or 310mm? Black/Orange/Orange, Black/Green/Green
CVa a sauce tureeen, lid and ladel but missing the plate, green Sauce tureen, round with plate, lid (casino handle) and ladle similar to CV9 but smaller 140mm x 190mm 75mm Black/Orange/Orange, Black/Green/Green, Black/Blue/Blue
CJ3 a tango gravy jug in the casino style, green Gravy jug, round with quadrant (Casino) handle 111mm (175mm with handle and spout) 75mm Black/Orange/Orange, Black/Green/Green
CB5 frilled fruit serving bowl, green Serving fruit bowl with frilled edge 240mm 75mm Black/Green/Green
CB6 frilled fruit bowl, green Individual fruit bowls with frilled edge 160mm 45mm Black/Green/Green
CX2 a tango egg cup in orange on its dish Egg cups, in a set of four on an indented flat dish with shell pattern handles Black/Orange/Orange, /Black/Green/Green
CX3 a tango watercress bowl in orange on its dishs Watercress bowl (I am told). This is a doughnut shaped bowl sitting on a perforated upper dish (13 holes) above a solid dish to collect water. Black/Green/Green
CVc a tango fruit bowl Large, straight sided fruit bowl. Also seen with a casino lid as a vegetable dish. Black/Orange/Orange

The Coffee Service (Cream Ware)

A coffee service produced to match this range for after dinner coffee served at the table. This is similar to the cans of the bone china range, a little smaller but heavier.

Item Thumbnail Description Diameter  Height  Colours seen Price estimates
CC3 a coffee can, green Coffee can, straight sides with round handle 53mm 57mm Black/Orange/Orange, Black/Green/Green pair £35
CS3 a saucer for a coffee can, green Saucer for coffee can 100mm 18mm Black/Orange/Orange, Black/Green/Green

Glassware

I had only come across one example of this in a museum until five came up for auction on eBay in May 2008 and the decanter a little later. The decoration seems to be a black transfer and vermilion paintwork in a similar fashion to the creamware series of china but definately a different transfer as there is a white background to the lines.

Item Thumbnail Description Diameter  Height  Colours seen Price estimates
G1 a very rare tango cocktail glass, orange Short cocktail glass 75mm Black/Orange/Orange £30–80
G2 a very rare tango cocktail decanter, orange Cocktail decanter 200mm Black/Orange/Orange A bargain at £60

There are also other designs which are clearly influenced by, or use the same moulds as the iconic tango tea service. A few examples are shown here.

an abstract tango inspired design a japanese inspired floral patern on a tango shaped base