How do we know the figure on the left was made by Ralph Wood? It exhibits lots of typical features. The titling is in a script found routinely on Ralph Wood figures. The red line on the base bands only three sides of the base. The lady stands on a mound painted in the typical rainbow-like colors Ralph Wood favored. And, most importantly, when you look at the base from beneath, it has rounded internal corners--as occurs repeatedly on other Ralph Wood figures.
I will admit I am frustrated with figure collecting generally. Where would stamp collecting be if stamp collectors simply bought stamps they liked and stuck them in albums? The pastime would be pretty uninteresting. Instead, stamp collectors pore over details of perforations, water marks, and other teensy details that tell them more about their stamps. By differentiating the rare/interesting from the mundane, they add value to their pastime. The same can be said of most other forms of collecting....but not of pottery collectors as a whole. Most of us just buy what we like, and stick it on a shelf. As a result, so very many of the most interesting, rare, and fascinating figures command low prices. My new books will have a price guide, and pricing figures has brought home a sad fact: some of the small figures most collectors would love to own are really very rare. But they are priced at no more than Price A, the lowest level on my pricing scale.
You may argue that the details don't matter.....but look at what we just learned about the two figures of Water. We know who made each, and that the one is older than the other. Suddenly they both become a lot more interesting....and now you might be inclined to add the remaining three elements to one or other to form a set. It can be done!
Aurea Carter currently has this pair of lovely figures emblematic of Water and Earth in stock.
Ralph Wood was a mold maker extraordinaire. Time and again, I see figures made in the 1830s that are of the same form as figures first made by Ralph Wood in the 1790s. For example, most portrayals of Elijah and the Widow are closely similar to earlier Ralph Wood figures. I can go on and on with examples, but the figures below illustrate my point.
These two gardeners in the Potteries Museum are impressed "1" and "2". Because I think that impressed numbers on Ralph Wood figures indicate the sequential introduction of new figures, figures "1" and "2" must have first been made early on in the Ralph Wood era.
Falkner notes busts of Milton as impressed 81, and I have noted them also impressed 82.
But Falkner also notes a bust of Milton, smaller in size, impressed 127. I think Falkner’s 127 is like this bust, impressed 128.
Bust 128 has clothing and facial features that are pretty close to bust 81---so I think Falkner took a leap of faith.
I am not quite convinced that the gentleman is indeed Milton, who is always portrayed with long hair, but for now Milton seems as close to an identity as I can get.
Below, courtesy of Bonhams, is a bust of Milton. This is the 81/82 model. You decide!