Figures of the month 2023
This is a gilt script titled figure of William Shakespeare with his right arm resting on a book atop a pedestal. Next to the pedestal is a sloped watch holder with a clock face painted inside, sitting atop a tree decorated with grapes.
Figures of the month 2022
This is a very rare pair of children seated sideways on Saint Bernards. More common figures have the children laying down or seated facing forward. Others have the rear arms moulded into the figures, instead of being separately moulded as these are. These figures are approximately 10” tall and date to around 1840-1850.
This is a rare figure of Victor Emmanuel II, the King of Sardinia and later the first King of Italy. The figure is titled with gold accented raised capitals, stands approximately 12 3/4” tall, and dates to about 1855. It is probably a Crimean war figure, with Emmanuel being shown in military uniform.
This is a rare figure of Bluebeard and Fatima, approximately 12 1/2” tall, dating to 1858. Bluebeard is easily recognized with his blue beard. He stands upright with a knife in his right hand and left hand on his hip. Fatima is kneeling before Bluebeard with eyes cast upward toward him, hands folded in a prayer-like position.
This is a very rare figure of Napoleon Bonaparte, approximately 8 ¼” tall, dating to about 1840. He stands with arms crossed next to a pedestal with a cloak draped over it. The base is decorated with an interesting marble effect, and it bears the title “N”.
What an interesting figure of a fox and monkey, 4 3/4” tall. The figure is rare and probably represents one of Aesop’s Fables called “The Fox and the Monkey”.
It is circa 1840, partially painted in the round, and has a solid base.
This is an interesting figure of a man and a woman, 7 ½” tall. It would be unremarkable if not for the head peering out from behind the man’s left leg.
This is a very rare figure of a woman in full length dress and a floral headband, standing 8 ½” tall. She holds a wand in her right hand and a posy in her left.
It is perhaps appropriate to show this figure as the Figure of the Month for May 2022, as we stand in solidarity with the Ukranian people under siege by the Russians.
Sebastopol was a Russian fortress that played an important part in the Crimean war. This figure was made at the time of the war, circa 1854.
Giuseppe Garibaldi was an Italian soldier and patriot who helped unify Italy. In 1864, he visited England and was welcomed with great enthusiasm. Garibaldi and his “red shirts” were heroes in the story of Italian independence.
This figure portrays a highlight in Act I Scene 3 of William Dimond’s dramatised version of Byron’s poem “The Bride of Abydos”. Mr Barton and Miss Rosa Henry are the actors, and the production was probably that at Astley’s Ampitheatre in London, in April 1847.
The figure is circa 1847 and 12.75 inches high and can be found in Pugh, page E379, figure 60.
Lions have always been a popular subject for the Staffordshire potter. The quality of this beast is superb and in the Medici style. Circa 1820, it is 11.75 inches long, 9 inches high and is wonderfully decorated. I particularly like the base, the detail of the lion’s face, and the fact that the lion has […]
Figures of the month 2021
Reverend Christmas Evans was a Welsh preacher who began life as a farm labourer. In 1788, he sustained an injury to his right eye in a religious brawl.
The Staffordshire potters made May crock (egg) baskets. These were usually of hens but there are examples of other birds such as ducks, guinea fowl, pigeons, etc. These are rare examples of swans which are beautifully modelled and decorated with gilt on white. They are 8 inches high and unrecorded.
This figure circa 1858, is based on a watercolor “Othello and Iago” by S A Hart exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1858. An engraving of the painting was also published in the National Magazine in 1858. It is 12 inches high and can be found in Pugh pages E370-E371, plate 13, figure 31.
A rare pottery figure circa 1800-1820 of a bull decorated with a most unusual and unique stripe effect, almost representing a tiger.
A pair of very imposing figures made by the Sampson Smith factory circa 1870. They are 17.5 inches and 18 inches tall respectively. See Pugh pages A164-165, plate 81, figs 235 and 236.
Coursing, the pursuit of hares by greyhounds, was a very popular Victorian sport. The whippet is a smaller dog but very similar in type to a greyhound and would have been kept by many country folks.
These are charming pottery pearlware figures circa 1820 of begging spaniel dogs.
Nelson was shot through the eye by a rogue French rifleman at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. He lies dying in the arms of two of his crew.
Urania was the Greek goddess of truth, is also the muse of astronomy and is usually portrayed holding a globe or compass.
Queen Victoria with the Princess Royal pairs with Prince Albert and their son Albery Edward.
Charity is believed to be the greatest of the virtues, embodying both the love of God and others.
Figures of the month 2020
Venus the Roman Goddess of Love and mother of Cupid, and Neptune the God of the Seas, are both well represented in ancient statuary and Old Master works of art.
Queen Victoria was also titled The Empress of India. India was a colony of Great Britain and hugely important for the trade that existed between those two countries.
Bonaparte (1769-1821) rose from humble beginnings to become one of the greatest military commanders of all time and the first Emperor of France.
O’Brien (1803-1864) was an Irish nationalist. He entered parliament in 1826 and made repeated efforts to improve poor relief and education in Ireland.
In the early 1800s, feeble improvements in England’s ramshackle educational system coupled with an ever-growing supply of affordable reading matter resulted in the explosive growth of the reading public.
Country pursuits were a big part of Victorian life both for the country squire and those who simply lived in the countryside and worked on the land.
In the year 19 AD, the Roman commander Germanicus died of poisoning, and his widow Agrippina brought his ashes home. This tragic subject was appealing in the neoclassical period.
Ibrahim Pasha (1789 – 1848) was the eldest son of Mohammed Ali the Viceroy of Egypt and Sudan. He served as a general in the Egyptian army that his father established during his reign, taking his first command of Egyptian forces when he was merely a teenager.
The bride and groom stand before a parson, whilst a young clerk beseeches the heavens for approval of the union, to commemorate the passage of The New Marriage Act of 1823, legislation that reinforced marriage.
Many versions of this story exist but the most commonly told tale is that the Bishop of Exeter fell ill and came to Dawlish in the county of Devon to restore his health. However, an ambitious local parson aimed to succeed to the See (the bishop’s office) in the event of his superior’s demise.
Heenan was born in New York and Sayers was born in Pimlico London. Both were accomplished knuckle fighters. They fought on 17th April 1860 at Farnborough, attended by over 12000 people.
Figures of the month 2019
Dudson used several distinctive bocage forms that are very useful in identifying their figures, but these figures lack typical bocages. Instead, look at the x-shaped sprig on the Mate base. That x-sprig is specific to Dudson. When such a sprig is used it is akin to a Dudson signature. The Mower base also has x-sprigs on it but they are partial; they most likely broke as they were formed. Pictured below is an enlarged view of the x-sprig… it really is quite distinctive.
Alan Sturrock says he has always liked Staffordshire figures which show the simple life so many of the Victorians had, and how very different life at all stages was as compared to today. This figure shows just that. The good student holding a book sits on a chair whilst the dunce stands next to her […]
These are two companion classical busts sometimes referred to as Tragedy and Comedy. The sad faced figure on the left is Heraclitus (540-475 BC). He is known as The Weeping Philosopher because he found man’s condition melancholy. This Staffordshire example is circa 1780, stands 5.5 inches tall and is after a similar bust made by Derby. The […]
Peel was a British Conservative statesman who served twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1834-35 and 1841-46) and twice as Home Secretary (1822-27 and 1828-30). He founded the Metropolitan Police Service and was one of the founders of the modern Conservative (Tory) Party. The son of a wealthy textile manufacturer and politician, Peel […]
Myrna Schkolne in Volume 2 of her book “Staffordshire Figures 1780-1840”, has Chapter 109 entitled Religious Officials and Observers. She makes the point that the Church of England clergy in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were high living at that time and were ready targets for ridicule. They were high living as many […]
One of the best known and loved folk-tales in Wales is the story of a faithful hound, and the Staffordshire potters were as always, quick to capitalise on this sad and poignant tale. The story goes that in the thirteenth-century, Prince Llywelyn the Great had a palace at Beddgelert in Caernarvonshire, North Wales. The Prince […]
Clocks were expensive and therefore only found in the homes of the better off in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. However, the master of the house generally had pocket watches and the Staffordshire potters were quick to latch onto a way of selling their wares by producing watch holders of all types. This is an early […]
The Victorian potter was good at making models of all kinds… royalty, politicians, criminals and animals, and also models depicting scenes of every day life. The figures entitled “Sand” and “Beesums” are just such models and show travelling salespeople who would probably go from town to town and village to village selling sand and beesums to the peasant […]
Bull-baiting was an ancient sport which involved pitting a bull against another animal. This was usually a dog such as a bull terrier, bull dog or mastiff. In England during the time of Queen Anne, bull-baiting was practiced in London at Hockley-in-the-Hole twice a week and was also reasonably common in provincial towns. At Tutbury, a […]
At this time of year in the UK, if you are fortunate you can sometimes see male hares boxing each other in the fields. This particular figure depicts hare coursing which was until relatively recently a popular country pursuit. Usually two greyhounds were released to chase a hare to the death. The hare was not […]
These figures portray Cymon and his beloved, Iphigenia. In 1700, John Dryden published their story as a poem in his Fables, Ancient and Modern. The tale has ancient roots for Cymon is the hero of The Decameron, a novella by Giovanni Boccaccio written in around 1350. The narrative tells that Cymon’s aristocratic father considers him a dolt and […]
The year 2019 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria who was potted in many forms by the Staffordshire potters. It therefore seems entirely appropriate for us to start this year with a figure of the Queen as our Figure of the Month. Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) […]
Figures of the month 2018
This spill vase was made in Staffordshire circa 1820 by the “Sherratt” pot bank. “Sherratt” figures are known for their whimsical humor, and this vase is no exception. The rampant lion and unicorn stand as they do on Britain’s royal coat of arms, but “Sherratt” replaced the traditional shield between them with a clock, perhaps […]
The greyhound or whippet was a popular dog to own in Victorian times and therefore a popular subject for the Staffordshire potter. They were principally a dog of the wealthier classes who used them to pursue the sport of coursing (using dogs to chase and catch hares or rabbits by speed and sight but not […]
This fine pair of figures portraying Peace (right) and Justice (left) was made in Staffordshire in around 1810. Justice holds a sword signifying her power and a scale symbolic of fair measure. Peace is crowned with a laurel wreath. She holds an olive branch in one hand and with the flaming torch in her other […]
Figures of Victoria and Albert were made in profusion and there are many models illustrated in the Harding directories. However, quality varies and this particular pair are both fine and rare. It is unusual to see a figure of Victoria without either a crown or hat of some description on her head. These figures were made in […]
In 1834, the Slavery Abolition Act abolished slavery in Britain’s colonies. This figure of a kneeling slave may predate emancipation and perhaps was made to support the abolitionist cause. It is reminiscent of the Slave Emancipation Society medallion that William Hackwood designed circa 1787, bearing the words “Am I not a man and a brother?”
Street vendors and street entertainers were commonplace on the streets and at country fairs in Victorian England. This figure is of such a person who would travel from place to place entertaining those he met with his barrel organ and his monkey. This is a big figure – perhaps 15 inches tall and circa 1870-80.
This pair of deer, made in Staffordshire circa 1830, is attributed to the “Sherratt” pot bank. At the time they were made, deer hunting had fallen from favour. By then, deer, rather than being perceived as quarry, were appreciated as beautiful adornments for the estates of the affluent.
Another figure which simply depicts rural life in Victorian England. There are plenty of figures that represent sea fishermen and their wives but far less common are fresh water fisherman. This figure, circa 1860, shows a man on the banks of a fast flowing stream or river from which he has pulled a fine salmon […]
This pair of figures of Neptune and Venus was made by the “Sherratt” pot bank circa 1830. They are after earlier Derby porcelain figures, but the titled bases are typical of “Sherratt”. These figures must have been commercially successful in their time because “Sherratt” made them on assorted bases, and Venus can even be found […]
This pair of swans would have adorned an ornamental pond in Victorian times. Many large Victorian houses had large heated glass conservatories or orangeries attached to them in which the house owner would grow exotic plants such as ornamental ferns and orchids. These buildings would also often contain a water feature such as a pond […]
Prince George Augustus Frederick was born on 2 August 1762. He ruled Britain as Prince Regent from 1811 and on 29 January 1820, acceeded to the throne as King George IV. He is remembered for his flamboyant preferences that dictated the style later dubbed “Regency”, his succession of mistresses, and his troubled marriage that embarrassed […]
This is an interesting and unusual figure. It represents an unfortunate soldier or sailor who fought in the Crimean war and whose injuries resulted in him losing a leg or legs. It seems somewhat bizarre perhaps one might say cruel that he should find himself sitting in a shoe which is of course the very […]
Figures of the month 2017
This apparently unique figure group, circa 1825, portrays a once-common sight in parks and on street corners across Britain. In the era before refrigeration, milk cows had to be located within quick reach of consumers. As the French-born American merchant Louis Simond tells in his journal in 1811, in London women bearing milk pails went door […]
This rare figure depicts a confrontation between a poacher and a landowner. It is truly representative of rural life in Victorian times. There were many families living in the countryside but the size of their families coupled with low incomes meant they often resorted to poaching to find food to eat. Although this was commonplace […]
In 1828, William Corder went to the gallows for allegedly murdering Maria Marten and burying her body beneath the floor of his Red Barn. The Red Barn Murder was the crime of the nineteenth century, and earthenware portrayals are among the rarest of Staffordshire pottery objects.
A pair of Victorian Staffordshire figures, probably depicting street musicians with drums astride Irish setters. Is the bowl for feeding the dog or donations from the public?
From medieval times until 1831, game law restricted ownership of hunting dogs such as this pearlware pooch to landed gentry with sufficient income from land. This barred over 99% of the population from owning hunting breeds. The stars of the canine world then were pointers and setters. Their regal bearing made them gentlemen’s hunting helpmates, and those […]
Victorian Staffordshire equestrian figure of Sir Robert Peel, British Prime Minister in the 1830s and again in the 1840s. Peel was instrumental in the creation of the modern British police force, and the police nicknames “bobbies” and “peelers” are a tribute to him.
These fine figures of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer and the scientist Sir Isaac Newton, two men who shaped our world, were made in Staffordshire by Ralph Wood, circa 1785.
A rare and large Victorian Staffordshire figure of Britannia seated above a clock face flanked by lions and holding the Union Jack aloft.
This pearlware watch holder, made in Staffordshire circa 1805, is almost 10 inches high. It depicts Urania, the Greek goddess of truth. Urania is also the muse of astronomy, and for this reason she is usually portrayed holding a globe or compass.
An unusual pairing of Victorian Staffordshire animal figures in the form of spill vases with leaping zebras and foxes.
This splendid gentleman setting out for a day’s shooting has his dog at his side. The figure was made in Staffordshire circa 1820. In that time, only gentlemen with income from land of at least GBP100 a year were allowed to hunt game animals. Others who did so risked death or transportation.
Figures of the month 2016
All collectors love dandies, and the cute couple alongside are rather special in that, unlike all other dandies, they stand with a sheep, a goat, and two dogs. Made circa 1820 and only about 5 inches tall, this tiny treasure is the perfect eyeful.
The subject of US politics always makes for sensational news stories but how many of us have a figure of our favourite president or prime minister in our homes? This fine quality figure of Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, was made circa 1845.
This stunning spill was made in the Staffordshire Potteries circa 1825 and can be attributed to the “Leather Leaf Group” pot bank. It is taller than most because the vase has been placed atop a plinth. Perhaps for this reason, the lady and gentleman musicians wear rather tall hats!
Relatively few fine cat figures were produced in the Staffordshire Potteries during the nineteenth century. This was because cats were not yet widely accepted as domestic animals and were still associated with witchcraft. This fine pair of recumbent cats date to circa 1850.
This figure depicts the American actor Thomas Dartmouth Rice in the role of Jim Crow. Rice created the Jim Crow routine in the US circa 1828 and performed it on the London stage in 1836. His performance was a sell-out, and Jump Jim Crow quickly became an international song and dance sensation. This figure was made circa […]
Many Victorian Staffordshire figures depict characters from literature, as does this fine figure of Don Quixote, from Miguel de Cervantes’s novel The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. This example is decorated in the manner of the Thomas Parr Factory.
The pot bank of Enoch Wood and James Caldwell made this splendidly painted figure of Saint George and the dragon some time between 1805 (when silver lustre was introduced commercially) and 1818 (when the Wood & Caldwell partnership dissolved). Wood & Caldwell made this figure in two sizes, this being the larger.
Victorian Staffordshire potters produced figures of contemporary royalty in great abundance. They potted many figures of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and their large family, but they fashioned far fewer figures of royals of bygone times, such as this fine example of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.
This petite pearlware figure of a chimney sweep alongside a woman, circa 1815, recalls the “climbing boys” (sometimes younger than six) who were forced to scale chimneys. This perilous occupation took its toll on the health and sometimes claimed the lives of these children.
“Babes in the wood” is usually a relatively common and uninspiring Victorian figure, but this particularly early circa 1840 version is quite superior in both quality and decoration.
This piper and his companion tambourine player are among the earliest of enamel-painted figures. They were made by James Neale circa 1780, and she is impressed with the NEALE & CO. mark beneath.
A classic pair of “man’s best friend” to start the new year. This pair of spaniels standing on pink bases decorated with leaves is known as “Majesty and Grace” and was made circa 1850.
Figures of the month 2015
Titled on the plaque on the base DR SYNTAX STOPPED BY HIGHWAYMEN, this month’s figure is after a Thomas Rowlandson engraving by the same title. Rowlandson’s illustrations on the Dr. Syntax theme inspired William Combe’s amusing Dr. Syntax poems, published from 1809.
This month’s figure is prompted by the furry devils that are in our gardens at this time of the year, burying nuts from our neighbours’ trees in everything from garden borders to small pots. Squirrels are quite rare in Staffordshire pottery, and this 9.5” tall version decorated in the manner of the Thomas Parr factory […]
A rare armorial container with removable stopper. The purpose of the container is unknown. It seems ill-suited for use as either a vessel for liquid or a spill vase, so perhaps it was intended to be purely decorative. Made circa 1820.
The Staffordshire potters of the early nineteenth century reflected the public interest in wild animals popularised by the travelling menageries. This fascination continued into the Victorian era. Leopards like this fine pair are rare and desirable. Made circa 1850.
Most performing bear groups have a little lion (in reality, a dog dressed in a costume and wig) in the foreground, but now and again there is a monkey instead, as seen in this group.
The figure was described in P.D. Gordon Pugh’s Staffordshire Portrait Figures book as “Monkey pluck.”
This stunning bear baiting group was formerly in the Hope McCormick Collection. The bear’s appealing expression and the man’s comic pose offset the savagery of the scene. The once-common sport of bear baiting was banned in England in 1835, so this rare group, made circa 1820, is a last reminder of a cruel sport that […]
A rare Victorian Staffordshire titled figure “Don’t you wish you may get it”depicting a dog tethered to a kennel, trying to get to a monkey on a barrel. Made circa 1860.
Figures impressed “TITTENSOR” are so rare that this figure couldn’t resist sporting its rear view, complete with three marks. Unlike most bocage figures, which are enamel-painted, this group is decorated in under-glaze colours.
This very rare figure portrays George Hudson (1800-1871), who inherited a fortune and used it to invest in the early rail industry.
This particularly rare figure portrays Maria Malibran (1808–1836), a renowned beauty and an international mezzo-soprano of extraordinary vocal range and power.
This rare and (so far) unrecorded Victorian Staffordshire figure, circa 1850, depicts spaniels on either side of a watch holder and is surmounted by a candle holder.