Several super additions to the stock of John Howard www.antiquepottery.co.uk. As always, John sets a really high standard. No need to pick through crud here! Two of the figures are featured in the Showcase on this site. Enjoy.
This pearlware Staffordshire figure titled Friendship sold on EBay a while ago, after being advertised thus: "The ornate scroll work at the front and sides of the grass is typical of Obadiah Sherratt." The sole basis for the attribution was the blue scroll work on the base.. What do you think? Was the attribution correct or wasn't it?
Well, the figure is definitely not necessarily by Obadiah Sherratt because there is no scientific basis for attributing anything to him. But in broader terms, the figure does not fall into that group of figures that we dub"Sherratt style" (see the postings for Obadiah Sherratt? in late May and early June.) Many pearlware figures made in the Staffordshire Potteries in the early decades of the nineteenth century were adorned with blue scroll work.....because it was pretty, of course! John Walton, who potted from around 1810-1830, used particularly lavish blue scrolls on some of his bases, and he marked many of his figures. But no-one had the monopoly on blue scrolls. Other, unknown potters used them too. Two further points:
Although this site focuses on pre-Victorian figures, the integrity of the antique pottery market as a whole concerns all of us. So read the tale of two Victorian figures just posted under the "Beware" tab and draw your own conclusions. Pity the auction house, Tooveys, that appears to have detected and disclosed much restoration was penalized by not selling the item. And I wish that all auction houses were as conscientious about condition reports.
I have just received a refund for an item I returned to an esteemed US auction house because of significant undisclosed restoration. The auction house was honorable and very nice about it, and a refund was no problem--but I was told that for what I paid I should have expected an issue! The problem is that for what I was prepared to pay, based on the condition report, I did not expect a problem. Again, Buyer Beware!
Do you know the identities of these lovely ladies, portrayed as pearlware figures? They are Flora and Pomona, great favorites with 18th and early 19th century Staffordshire potters. The pair above are in the 'Sherratt' style.
And last but not least, a tiny pair of Flora and Pomona. Collectors often overlook small figures on dealers' stands, as they seem lost among the larger wares. But these tiny treasures 'pop' among a collection in a home setting. I just love them. BTW, these were bought months apart from the same seller. She didn't realize they were a pair!
These Staffordshire figures are dubbed "the Welsh tailor and his wife." They are pearlware, in the 'Sherratt' style, made circa 1820. The models are after Derby figures, first made by the Derby factory in 1760 and copied from the Meissen figures that Kaendler and Eberlein modeled circa 1740.
The figures are supposedly inspired by a real incident. Count Heinrich von Bruhl (1700-17630) was Prime Minister of Saxony and Director of Meissen from 1735. A profligate dandy, he offered his tailor a reward of his choosing for meeting a deadline. The tailor chose to attend a court banquet. This request was considered ridiculous, so instead porcelain forms of the tailor and his wife were placed as table decorations on the count's banquet table. “Welsh” in the figure’s title results from incorrect translation of Meissen’s title of the figure “Ein Schneider welcher auf einem Ziegenbock reutet” (A Tailor who rides a goat…). So more correctly, these figures are "the Welch tailor and his wife."
The Staffordshire Figure Association's annual meeting is a great shopping venue for collectors. Where else can you find over a dozen dealers offering just Staffordshire figures--not to mention the collectors who also may want to sell? At venues such as this, I am always on the lookout for unusual figures. And it is even more exciting if I manage to complete an unusual pair. The figure below represent such a 'match made in heaven.' I bought the lady gardener from Aurea Carter because the bocage was one I hadn't seen before. A while later, I found her mate. Treasure hunts like this make collecting an ongoing challenge...never-ending fun.
Anyway, back to the meeting. The 2009 Staffordshire Figure Association meeting is being held in picturesque Lambertville, NJ from Sunday Sept 20 to Tues Sept 22. This illustrious group of enthusiastic members welcomes novices, serious collectors, and those with an interest in all things old. All that is required to join the SFA is annual dues of $35. The meeting itinerary is as below--copied from a letter sent to members recently.
The SFA President is Elinor Penna. Please contact her at email@example.com for membership or meeting information. Hope to see you there!
I bought this Staffordshire figure a while ago because it intrigued the social historian in me. Who was the lady with a determined expression, fists clenched? Don't you love the attitude-- not to mention the bonnet! I had never seen another figure like this. Something in me said that this was not just a random figure, but a likeness of a real person, now forever captured in clay.
After much digging, I found this very rare hand colored engraving that I believe captures on paper the very same lady.
Title: The Boxing Baroness
Artist: Williams, Charles (London, active, 1797 - 1830)
Date: March 1819
Medium: Original Hand-Coloured Etching
The Boxing Baroness, the title of the etching above, is known from only a few copies. It was created in for Bon Ton Magazine in March 1819 by Charles Williams, an important British satirical artist and caricaturist.
Our Boxing Baroness, the fashionably dressed lady in pugilistic stance, is the notorious Lady Barrymore, wife of the fast-living Seventh Earl of Barrymore, who enjoyed amateur boxing. The Earl succeeded to his title at age 3. He came from bad stock and was known as 'Hellgate' because of his rakish lifestyle. The young earl dissipated his life in a series of madcap pleasures. He was a big gambler, and it is estimated that he went through GBP300,000 in 5 years. Anything was good for a gamble, and he once bet he could race on foot against a man mounted on horseback. His gambling reached its lows when he bet the Duke of Bedford that he could get a man to eat a live cat!
Boxing, or pugilism as it was then frequently called, was one of the Earl of Barrymore's particular pleasures. It was fashionable for aristocratic young men to exercise themselves at a sport that even the Prince of Wales had enjoyed in his younger and slimmer days, so the Earl kept a pugilist as his constant companion. He also boxed with his mistress, Miss Charlotte Goulding. The lady--hardly the right word, in this case--was neither rich nor well-born, being the daughter of a sedan chairman. It must have been true love for in June, 1792, the couple claimed to have eloped to Gretna Green. Seems they may never have reached Scotland but perhaps they were married soon after. The new Lady Barrymore enjoyed sparring with her husband---bare-fisted, as was the practice in those days. Their pleasure was short-lived. In 1793, the Earle's musket accidentally discharged and killed him at the age of 24. He was on the verge of financial ruin.
What of Lady Barrymore, our pearlware figure? Seems she lived for many more years and, as her obituary in the Gentleman's Magazine of 1832 tells, she was renowned for her pugilistic skill...among other things!
In determining whether my figure was indeed our Boxing Baroness, one thing puzzled me. The figure seems to be clutching something little in her hands. Why would a boxer do this? Last night, the penny dropped! I came across this ad in The London Journal of 1722.
So my Boxing Baroness is holding a coin in each hand. That, it seems, was the way women judged the settling of the score in those days. If you are recoiling in horror at all this, relax. Things really aren't so different today--but female fisticuffs is now less PC. Seems in the early days of boxing, from after 1700, women discovered that they were not such delicate creatures after all, and they participated whole-heartedly in prize-fighting (and fighting just to settle differences). These were no-holds-barred battles--no stays were worn and usually women stripped to their slips. References to female pugilists occur with surprising frequency--but our Boxing Baroness is surprisingly rare.
If my blog entry were worthy of a Dedication, this one would be dedicated to that great lover of all Staffordshire figures, Elinor Penna. Elinor sold me this amazing figure. Thank you, Elinor,
If you have already read the blog posting below, dated 7/26, please go back to it for the PS. Too sweet to miss.
Once upon a time, while slogging away at my book, I came across an unusual little Staffordshire figure of a sheep. The figure was definitely early (pre-Victorian), but the bocage was molded in one and was quite flat on the back. The figure was painted all the way around, but the bocage was flat. Mentally--but not in print!--I called this sheep "The Last Bocage Figure" because it seemed to represent a transition to the simpler modeling of the Victorian era. Was this the beginning of the birth of flat backed figures? No way of knowing...but it did keep me guessing. Cheerful little figure, isn't it?
In the next few years, I saw another couple of examples of the same sheep. Always the sheep faced left. Surely there had to be one facing right, I thought. My theory is that figures that would have been held in the left hand (face right) are the first to break...and thus the hardest to find today. And then one day I found it. And my "Last Bocage Figure" became a pair.
A match made in heaven. Of course, I have been watching ever since for another example of the same bocage. This is the fun of collecting. And I hit gold last month, with a recumbent sheep. Yes, the same bocage. The flower has not been painted yellow, but the mold shape and detailing are the same. And here he is with his new family.
As you can see from the photos taken from the back, this time the bocage is unpainted at the back....so perhaps this potter's thought processes on the decorativeness of backs had evolved a degree further than most. The sheep are all definitely early 19th century. The colors of the bodies and glazes support that. Do shout if you see this bocage on any other figures. I am optimistic about pairing my recumbent sheep--or should I say 'ram' because he has lovely horns? It will take time, but challenges such as these make collecting fun.
When I lecture, I am routinely asked 'how much do these figures cost?' I answer that you can spend tens of thousands of dollars, or you can buy a fabulous little figure for less than the price of a NY hotel room. Of course, this gives me much wiggle room! I stay in cheap NY hotels, but some in my audience prefer suites at the Plaza. I bought all three of these figures for less than the price of a modest hotel room. So you don't need deep pockets to have a fabulous collection. But sometimes, when something really special comes your way, it truly is worth reaching deep into your pocket. Trust me, I have been there....and I have never regretted it!
Thanks to my cyberspace friend and fellow collector, Peter, for generously sharing his sheep, below. I guess we now have a Last Bocage Flock. Seeing this pair made my day. Aren't they delicious?
Our flock is turning into a menagerie. Many thanks to a lovely blogger for generousy sharing her Last Bocage deer.
"Dear Seller, I am sure you listed with the best intentions but..." is how I usually start emails to sellers listing reproduction figures as The Real Thing. I like to give sellers the benefit of the doubt, because frequently they have listed with the best intentions. Tonight, I wrote two emails in that spirit to the sellers of these items.
This figure is described as "STAFFORDSHIRE BOCAGE STYLE FIGURE OF TWO MAN A BOY ON TOP OF A DOG AND A BEAR IN VERY GOOD CONDITION WITH NO CHIPS OR CRACKS STANDS AT 6.1/2 INCHES HIGH 6 INCHES WIDE."
Grammar and spelling errors are not mine! No claims of great antiquity are made here, but isn't a Staffordshire figure one that was made in Staffordshire? So I wrote.
Your figure is in very good condition because it is very new. It was made in Asia, not Staffordshire, sometime from 1990--copied from a colour picture that was published in a book in that year. I am sure you listed with the best intentions so thought you would like to have this added info. Best wishes,
We'll have to see what happens. The item is for sale on eBay, item 280375829630. I will add this picture to the BEWARE page on this site. This page is intended as a rogue's gallery of repro figures, to guide novice collectors. An experienced collector emailed me that he felt nauseous after looking at the BEWARE page. My sort of man!
This reproduction figure of the boxer Tom Cribb comes with an amusing sales patter. Described as a Staffordshire figure dating from "pre 1900s" the listing (item 330346625562) reads (again, the grammar and spelling errors are not mine!)
THIS ITEM IS VERY OLD
IT HAS BEEN IN MY GRANS CABINETT IN HAYMARKET FOR AT LEAST 50yrs
SHE HAD THE PAIR (tom molyneux & tom cribb)
TIMES WERE HARD AND SHE SOLD MOLYNEUX NOW ITS TIME TO LET THE CHAMPION GO
CANT SEE ANY MARKS BUT HAD DEALER VERIFY IT AS OLD AND STAFFORD LIGHT CRAZING IN THE CERAMIC
I am sure you listed with only the very best intentions so I thought you would like to know that this figure is a very modern reproductions of an early 19th century figure. Your figure was possibly made in Asia, copied from a picture of the original that appeared in "Circus & Sport: Staffordshire Figures 1780-1840", published around 1990. You can see an original figure in color in my book, and an example of this repro figure is illustrated on www.mystaffordshirefigures.com under the tab titled BEWARE. With best wishes,
This is quite a common reproduction and appears on eBay routinely. Wish I had remembered to add that the 'genius' who made this nasty thing--and I should say 'pair' rather than 'thing' because Cribb is customarily paired with Molyneux--got something else wrong: Molyneux was black, but Cribb was white!
If you want to see The Real Thing--be it a performing animal group or beautiful pairs of Cribb and Molyneux--look in my book. Lovingly photographed, because I do love these early Staffordshire figures so. The story of those early boxers is fascinating. Did you know they were the first sports stars of modern time? Prior to pugilism emerging as a sport in the late 1700s, the only sports stars were famous horses and dogs! The Cribb-Molyneux fights of 1810 and 1811 riveted the British public, and thousands turned out to watch those then-illegal events. That Molyneux, a former American slave, might wrest the national boxing title from Cribb, a very white Englishman, was too horrific to comtemplate! Molyneux really did win the first fight but he was cheated of victory and he lost the rematch the next year.
Boxing matches of those days were very different from those of today. Boxers did not wear gloves. Rounds were untimed and lasted until a man went down. He then had 30 seconds to be up or it was over. Matches lasted many long rounds, many long hours. Boxers fought few times in their lives because the human body can only take so much. Fabulous Staffordshire figures pay eternal tribute to these courageous men--and crude copies irritate me!
PS: I have since had replies from both sellers.
The seller of the performing animal group writes: My description does go on to say that it is "Staffordshire style" and not that it was actually made in Staffordshire.
Well, yes...but it didn't read that way yesterday! Today's revision notes STAFFORDSHIRE STYLE BOCAGE FIGURE OF TWO MAN A BOY. And the title still has no mention of 'style'.
As for the black Cribb, the seller writes:
HI THERE MYRNA,many thanks for your email and the advice,this item was in my nans cabinett all my life,60+years.didnt know if it was right or wrong took advice from dealer ( Ooops ) not allways correct .To someone who hasnt got one still makes a good space filler Kind regards cy
He has posted my email at the bottom of the listing. Guess potential buyers can now choose whom to believe.