Faith, Hope, and Charity are sometimes called “theological virtues” because Christians believe they are gifts of God. These virtues have traditionally been portrayed in art in female form, each accompanied by an appropriate attribute.
Faith holds a book representing the Scriptures. Hope gazes heavenward; the anchor at her side originates from St Paul, which describes hope as “an achor of the soul.” (Heb. 6:19). Charity is believed to be the greatest of the virtues, embodying both love of God and others. Appropriately, the figure of Charity portrays these dual aspects. She nurtures children, while in one model a child holds a crucifix.
Figures of Faith, Hope, and Charity must have been particularly popular by the early 1800s, because lots of versions were made. You can find them in sets of three--usually assembled by an observant collector--or as singles. I confess to a fondness for the figure of Charity, so I pick up nice examples and nestle them on a table, complete with a period hand-colored engraving of Charity. My attraction to this figure has nothing to do with my belief in theological virtues. Rather, I am Jewish and charity is at the core of Judaism. I will confess to not being particularly observant--which gives me the perfect excuse for owning neither Faith nor Hope. But I can always find room for a lovely Charity.
This example came from John Howard, and I love the fabulous enamels. More importantly, the figure was perfect--and I waited for a perfect example on an otherwise ordinary figure. I think I am drawn to Charity because I too lugged three children around, so I relate!
The example of Charity above is quite different and I envy her serenity. This figure is impressed WEDGWOOD, dating it to the 1790s. I really wanted a marked Wedgwood example, so I tolerated the fact that Charity's head had been reattached. As John said to me once when I dithered about a reattachment "Myrna, its all there." It was good advice and I recall it often.
Some examples of Charity are formed quite differently. Here she only has two children.
This figure is in the "Sherratt" style and it was made without a bocage also. A very similar figure was made by Ralph Wood in the 18th century, but the popularity of the subject ensured that the molds were used by several potters for decades longer.
I like the Charity below. She is more the kind of mother I was....nothing serene here. I have only seen one example of this figure and I wish I owned her.
There are so many variations of Charity, and you will be able to see them all in the book I am working on. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to all the dealers, collectors, and auction houses who have helped with images. I know taking pictures is not fun and emailing is a pain....and then there is a little permission form that my publisher requires. We all hate forms, even simple forms. But everybody has stepped up to the plate. The book will be a collaborative effort and the more input we have, the better the end result. So a big thank you...and please keep them coming!
One more point about my figures of Charity: this little collecting theme has allowed me to indulge in several figures of the finest quality at reasonable prices. Because the figures are quite common, I can hold out until I find a perfect example. And a single figure of this sort is never expensive. So there is no huge agonizing over the purchase. A theme like this really keeps collecting fun. And there is room on my table for plenty more.:)
I have just devoured Peter Garland's new book Ceramic Furniture Rests
. If you would like a copy, contact Peter via his new site www.ceramicfurniturerests.com
. The book is colorful, informative, and a delight to own--a keeper for your bookshelf. And you can see the book by going to the site, so you will know just what a treat you have in store within its pages.
John Howard is staging an Exhibition October 16-30th, and the venue, Witney Antiques, in Witney, Oxfordshire, is perfect. In the 1980s, I stumbled into Witney Antiques with 3 children under 10 years of age in tow, and all that baby paraphernalia swinging from my arms. I immediately recognized that I was among the finest selection of early furnishings and needlework in England. Better yet, instead of being shown the door, I was invited to take my time and look around. In later years, I bought some exquisite needlework from Witney Antiques, but I soon learned that I could not afford two habits, so I keep my money for pottery. That being said, can you imagine better eye candy than John's treasures within Witney Antiques? Those of you who can go, support this. And tell John that these pots DO talk!
From 1981 to 2009, one of the highlights of the ceramics year was Jonathan Horne's annual selling exhibition, held at his London premises for 29 consecutive years. Jonathan had an eye for rarities, and this amazing garniture appeared in his Exhibition in 1987.
The grouping is described as "A garniture of enamelled figures of huntsmen with their dogs, each figure impressed "Walton" on a small scroll applied to the back. Tallest 6-1/2". C1820" Jonathan went on to say that "This complete set appears to be unrecorded."
An amazing garniture, it is. Prior to Jonathan's catalogue publication I don't believe anyone had recorded even one of these figures. In fact, no-one realized that John Walton had made a garniture of any form. But complete it is not!
To say these figures are rare is an understatement, but in recent years we discovered yet another figure that also fits into this garniture. It is a small figure of a fleeing hare. Clearly this is what the hunt is all about! Presently, two examples of this hare are recorded, and I have photographed one here alongside a sportsman, perpetually in pursuit.
The hare made the garniture a 5-piece ensemble, potentially. Delicious, is it not?
Collectors, like sportsmen, find the hunt itself to be the fun of the game! Recently the stakes were upped when yet another small figure appeared at auction. Again, bearing the Walton banner, this small figure grouping of two pheasants is perfectly sized to fit into the garniture. It will be in the book that Malcolm and I are working on. Attribution here is easy: these figures are all marked, and we have not found any unmarked examples.
If you are even thinking of sending us pictures for the book, please please do so--and thank you to those who already have. Won't it be great to have thousands of figures to look at on paper, when all is said and done? I have wanted this book forever....I just didn't think I would have to write it. We hope to hand our work over to our publisher later next year, so hang in there. It will happen!
Malcolm Hodkinson and I have signed a contract with a publisher for a book on early Staffordshire figures. The book will be books, as it will run to more than one volume. Our work will be VERY comprehensive (read "thousands of pictures, as many as we can get"), and we will be including our groundbreaking research on attributing figures. Excited? I hope you are--but I will admit to more than a touch of panic at what we have undertaken.
As you know, we have a huge photo archive, and this will form the basis of our work. But I need your help assembling pictures. You probably have figures that we would like to include. Yes, I may have a picture of a figure just like one of yours in my archive---but I cannot publish it if quality is poor or I lack the photographer's permission. Please step forward and help. If we all do this, we will have a book that will delight collectors for decades to come---and we will pass our passion and knowledge on to future generations.
If you are ready to reach for your camera, may I suggest this approach: take a few quick shots of your collection as it stands, email them to me, and I will get back to you right away telling you which figures I need. I know lots of you have fabulous figures. Please, please share. Of course, we will acknowledge your ownership in the book, or we will ensure your anonymity if that is your preference. Now's the time to let your figures strut their stuff. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Although she is certainly not the most common of classical figures, Hygeia is quite well known to collectors. Hygiea is the goddess of health. She healed the sick by administering the bile of the gorgon Medusa. For this reason, she is depicted with an ewer and bowl that hold Medusa’s bile. The story gets better: In ancient statuary, Hygeia frequently feeds a snake from a bowl. Why a snake? The snake symbolizes healing or rebirth because of its ability to shed its skin.
So now we have the nasty stuff behind us, enjoy this lovely example of Hygeia.
Hygeia. H: 9". Photo: Andrew Dando Antiques.
Along the same lines, there is a VERY large Staffordshire figure of a lady washing her hands. The example below is in the Willett Collection. She measures 27-1/2" and she weighs a TON!
H: 27". The Willett Collection, Brighton Museum, UK.
Stella Beddoe was such a good sport about helping Malcolm Hodkinson and me haul this figure onto a table to photograph. Believe me, she is H-E-A-V-Y, and it took 3 of us to get her in place. The figure is normally mounted on a low square base and I assume this example has lost its base--but we did not have what it took to flip this lady over. But is she not GORGEOUS? I would make house room for her in a moment...I guess she would need her own room or her own house.
This large figure is often described as Purity, which always has me a little befuddled. Yes, it is nice to keep your hands clean....but I can find no classical references to Purity. Sometimes she is described as Hygeia, but I think that is only because of the connection between hand-washing and hygiene. As you can see, she has none of Hygeia's attributes.
So do we have other ladies fashioned on the same theme? I thought not until I found the figure below. She is pictured in John Hall's book Staffordshire Portrait Figures. Height merely 11"--and here's the great part: this figure is marked with the rare mark of Lakin & Poole.
Photo: John Hall, "Staffordshire Portrait Figures" p12.
The figure is described in the caption as Hygeia. John Hall clearly believed this lady with the water bowl to be Hygeia, despite the lack of ewer and snake. An understandable mistake, but I have been no happier with this naming. Unfortunately, until now I have had nothing to suggest as an improvement.
And then it happened! In the Glaisher Collection recently, I found yet another Lakin & Poole figure of a lady washing her hands--- but this time she has a title: Ariadne.
Photo: The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK.
My problems are not yet over. I cannot for the life of me determine the connection between Ariadne and a water bowl. Along the way, I learned that Ariadne was a Greek goddess who died in childbirth. At an event honoring her memory, a young man lay on the ground in the vicarious pangs of labor. Hmm...does this not only happen to husbands? Anyway, if you know why Ariadne should be holding that bowl, please share.
Looking for help with your Staffordshire dogs? Want to know if they are real or reproduction? Most Staffordshire dogs were made from the Victorian era until today. This site deals with early (i.e. pre-Victorian) figures only. That means I can't give an expert opinion on your Staffordshire dog or any other figure made after 1837.
Yes, there are some early Staffordshire dogs, but they are the exception rather than the rule. If you have a seated spaniel, or a dog on an all cobalt blue base, or a dog with gold decoration on it, the chances are you have a Victorian or later dog--and I can't help you.
I also can't tell you anything about porcelain figures, continental figures, modern figures, and cottages. And I never appraise or advise on decorating. So what do I do? I answer ANY question about a figure that you even think might be early. Here my patience is limitless. If you are uncertain as to whether your figure qualifies, send me just one photo and we will take it from there.
Thanks to all for reading my site. Sorry if I sound crabby....but I am wallowing in emails that need to be directed elsewhere.
Early earthenware lions are the most popular of animals, and there is a steady demand for good examples. These lions often have rather fascinating faces. This, coupled with the lion’s role as England’s national symbol, makes these beasts perennially popular.
Lions occur in varying sizes and are frequently modeled with a front paw placed on a ball. This pose is presumed to be after that of the lions at the Loggia dei Lanze, Florence. Among the most loved lions are those that can be attributed to the "Sherratt: pot bank.
This pair of lions is reconizable as "Sherratt" because such bases occur only on other figures with "Sherratt" features. Everything comes together nicely on this pair: the enamels, the colors, the bold simplicity. Nothing messy, quite modern and minimalist! Often this model lion has the tail restored. The tail's prominent positioning makes it understandably vulnerable. Tails that are not restored exactly right always bother me. Once you know how this tail should look, the eye does not forgive deviations. One of these lions has two chipped teeth, but you have to stick your eyes into the beast's mouth to notice this, so these lions will remain unrestored to preserve their integrity.
What of other "Sherratt" lions? Well, you can find the same lions on a variety of typically "Sherratt" bases. Three are shown below.
It is common to find single lions rather than pairs. A pair is terrific, a single is very, very OK---and for many collectors, a single is more affordable. It goes without saying that you should aspire to owning a good single rather than a mediocre pair.
"Sherratt" also made his lion before a bocage. The addition of a bocage ups the stakes and damage becomes very much more likely.
Three of the lions above are from my archive and have condition issues. The fourth pair is from the current stock of John Howard, and I would expect it to be as good as it gets.
Notice John's lion has typical "Sherratt" garlands on the base. There are four of them, placed right across the front of the base. In manufacture, these little garlands were formed one by one in a press mold, and then each was attached to the base. These garlands are such strong indicators of "Sherratt' that I think of them as akin to signatures.
A while ago, my friend Malcolm Hodkinson and I came across another lion with garlands....but somehow a "Sherratt" attribution just didn't sit well with us.
Don't get me wrong: this lion is a perfectly wonderful figure, and those garland are right where they should be on the base. Their shape is spot-on. But the way the garlands are painted, the way the ball is decorated, the bocage, the color of the unpainted pot beneath, the weight of the figure and a whole lot of other little things just do not add up to "Sherratt.". So how do you explain the four "Sherrat" garlands? The answer is that the four garlands were molded as one with the base--they have not been applied separately. The potter made this lion by molding the base off a complete "Sherratt" base. I believe this lion was made at the same time as "Sherratt" lions. But, despite those usually tell-tale garlands, it doesn't earn a "Sherratt" attribution. In attributing figures, the devil really is in the details.