"Tang" - Another Mystery
to the Puzzle of Early Lladró
Around late 2012 or early 2013, collector Larry Gochberg
contacted me to ask about an
item that looked like Lladró but was not marked. Upon sending
a picture of it to the Lladró company, he'd received an email from a
Lladró representative informing him that the bulldog figurine in question had been made
by a company called Tang "that was purchased by the Lladró brothers at the
beginning of the 60s together with another factory called Zaphir."
A small (5" long) bulldog model identified by a
Lladró company staffer as having been a Tang model, a company later acquired by
Lladró. (Photo courtesy of Larry Gochberg.)
Well, at first, I found the claim hard to believe. I've seen no evidence that the Zaphir
brand dates earlier than 1978, and it was in production as a distinct company
at least through the early 1980s, so Lladró's buy-out of Zaphir couldn't
have been contemporaneneous with a 1960s acquisition of a
brand called Tang. The Lladró source also told Mr. Gochberg that the bulldog model was still in production
as a NAO, although that's clearly not the case. Besides, I considered "Tang" a pretty odd name for a porcelain produced in
Spain; if you do an internet search on the name, what you'll get are
thousands of references to ancient Tang Dynasty Chinese porcelain.
But then, collector Richard Voinnet of Paris, France contacted
me via email to ask about an item that had been attached to a
wooden base and that he'd bought on the secondary market because he'd been sure it was a Lladró. When he got the item home
and removed the artificially attached base, he was disappointed to see the
item had a mark that wasn't Lladró's. "Can you identify the mark from the picture
I'm sending?" he asked.
Lo and behold, there was the elusive "Tang" mark! Moreover, it was attached
to a model of an adolescent boy wearing a yarmulke and accompanied by
his dog, an item I knew had been made as an early NAO (#32,
"Man's Best Friend") and which dates from no later than the early 1970s and perhaps
as early as the mid- to late-1960s (see NAO catalog listing for this item).
The Tang model at left was also made as NAO #32, "Man's
Best Friend." Its early NAO catalog number dates that version from no
later than the early 70s. According to a Lladró source, the Tang
company was acquired by Lladró, so there is a demonstrable relationship
between the two brands, though the precise nature of that relationship -
and which company came first - remains obscure. (Photo courtesy of Richard Voinnet.)
At right, a nice, clear image of the base of Richard Voinnet's
figurine grouping, showing the impressed Tang mark. (Photo
courtesy of Richard Voinnet.)
In 2013, I was also contacted by collector Stephen Rowell, who has a variant model of this
figurine marked with an old, impressed NAO mark, which can be viewed on
this page of my NAO web catalog. It is now known that early
Lladró scuptors such as Fulgencio García, Juan Huerta, and others worked on both the
core collection and the NAO brands. If, as seems increasingly evident,
the same sculptors actually worked on all three brands (regular
Lladró, NAO, and Tang), this alone would account for the strong stylistic affinity among
the three. It also seems apparent,
as seen in the wording of the email from Lladró about buying other factories as well as from
early production evidence, that,
in the 1960s, Lladró was busy consolidating its holdings so as to corral
its early sculptors, who may initially have been
involved with other early brands that looked so much like Lladró because the sculptors
On the last day of 2013, Stella van Klinken from the Netherlands happened upon this "El Portal Porcelana"
web site while she was trying to identify a lamp and what turned out to be another example of the
bulldog model pictured above, this one with just the Made in Spain mark in cobalt blue.
This provides further support for my theory that most items found on the secondary market
that look an awful lot like Lladró but hav no other mark except this cobalt country of
attribution stamp are Tang or Rosal items from which original paper brand stickers have
This little dog model has just
the cobalt Made in Spain mark with no brand attribution, but it's pretty clearly
another version of the Tang bulldog shown above. [Photo courtesy of Stella Van Klinken.]
A Collector's Book of Retired Lladró
by Peggy Whiteneck
Old Line Publishing, LLC
The publisher for this book has ceased publication, and I am now at work on a revised
and expanded edition, with a couple of promising leads for a new publishing option.
For the moment, then, this book will only be available on the retail market from
advance-ordered stock. You can still buy it used - but avoid the scalpers
and DO NOT PAY HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS FOR THESE SECOND-HAND BOOKS! There are plenty of
reasonably priced secondary market copies still available at online book sellers. Stay tuned to
this site for future news on the revised edition!
Ever since its founding in the 1950s and its subsequent, stellar rise to global prominence,
collectors have been fascinated with the singular modeling and attention to detail in
Lladró Spanish porcelain figurines. Eventually, collectors discovered that Lladró
wasn't just one brand, but several. At the same time, other companies began to sprout up all
over Spain, particularly around Lladró's own region in Valencia, working
"in the Lladró style" and hoping to catch a ride on the tailwinds of its popularity.
This book is written to acquaint readers with retired figurines in all the Lladró and
Lladró-affiliated brands and to help distinguish them from the work of other Spanish
companies. The book features substantive chapters on the Lladró "core brand,"
NAO by Lladró, Zaphir, Golden Memories, Rosal, and Hispania, complete with
representative photos for each brand.
Retail Price: $29.95