What did I know in my 30s? Where was my taste?? Sad to say, in those now-distant years I ignored classically styled figures. Boring, I thought, as I focused on figures reflecting everyday life in England in the early 1800s. But some years ago I had a revelation when I visited a large private collection: amidst the cheerful clutter one figure screamed LOOK AT ME. A serene Ralph Wood enamel painted Minerva was queen of the crowd. The coloring was amazing, the modeling so crisp. That figure gave me goosebumps, and thinking of it still does today.
Minerava opened my eyes to the charm of classical figures. Before you yawn, I agree: many are clunkers to be avoided. But I am not talking about all those anemic, heavy-hipped ladies. Read on.... .
This perfect figure is referred to as "the hay maker" because examples occur titled thus. It was probably made by Ralph Wood II or II between 1785 and 1805 and is finely decorated in the delicate manner associated with early Wood enamels. The haymaker holds an ALE BARREL (so titled, which is unusual); mold number '31' is impressed beneath the base; a red band is around three sides of the base only--another Wood "feature". H: 7 1/4".
Mold number '31' is a recorded Wood mold number. This figure most commonly occurs decorated in the colored glazed typical of most Wood wares. Falkner (p12) illustrated a colored glaze example without a mold number but marked R WOOD. Halfpenny (p58) illustrated a colored glaze haymaker in the Potteries Museum, 286.P.1949. Also in colored glazes, see Fitzwilliam Museum, C.39-1930. See Grigsby p437 for another and p438 for mention of a figure impressed '31' but from a different mold in the Potteries Museum (48P70). (Halfpenny (p327) mentions the same mold number having more than one use.)
And now that I have told you more than you wanted to know, just look at the figure :)
This strapping lass depicts either Plenty or Ceres--I will admit to being totally confused as to how to tell the difference, so please tell me! There is nothing anemic about her. Just look at those rosy cheeks. I love the family of figures that occurs on brown-bases. H: 8.5".
A side note: the figure is perfect. That means unrestored. Yes, I can see the little nibbles on the base, but they are so minor I wouldn't have them touched in. Just 200 years of wear, and so much less bothersome to the eye than poor restoration.
I bought both these figures from Aurea Carter, but look at the Showcase and you will find others, ranging from Juno Antiques' sweetly lovely Ceres (already have similar or I'd be tempted) to Elinor Penna's amazing 22" Enoch Wood Fortitude, which I would love to own.