This spill holder is definitely attributable to "Sherratt" because the distinctive rainbow base is only found on other figures that have multiple features linking them to "Sherratt." But the lion and unicorn are best known to Staffordshire figure collectors from the marked WALTON armorial spill vase, seen below.
French, in my opinion, should not be on England's royal Arms, but then Spanish is all over our American products. The world is but a village, I guess, and perhaps England was centuries ahead of the game. Seems that the potter we like to think was Obadiah Sherratt had a little problem with all that French too.....but then "Sherratt" style figures often had trouble getting even the English right. In any event, "Sherratt" obviously liked lions and unicorns enough to attempt to incorporate them into a figure group he could understand. And the result is the fantasmagorical spill vase that still has me ooh-ing and ah-ing. The thing about "Sherratt" groups is their quirky naivete, and this one has it all. A clock, adorable sheep, a beautiful classical relief, and brilliant enamels all fight for your eye's attention. Which to look at first? Incredibly, this piece has survived the centuries in extraordinarily good condition. Yes, the tails of the lion and unicorn have of course required attention, but the animals remain attached to their precarious perches, and even those four sweet sheep are unscathed by time. Miracles do never cease. Who knows what will turn up next week?
- I have found this spill vase form (identical mold, including the lady at the top) on one other figure. That figure group does not have a lion and unicorn. Instead, the figures of Maria Marten and William Corder stand to each side and a small plaque on the front reads W. CORDER & M. MARTEN. William Corder murdered Maria Marten in the notorious Red Barn Murder of 1828. The Red Barn spill holder can be linked to "Sherratt" because the same forms of Corder and Marten (with similar dress pattern) occur on the brown-claw table base that is also "Sherratt". You can see this figure in my book, People, Passions, Pastimes, and Pleasures: Staffordshire Figures 1810-1835. And the story of the crime is a great read.
- The spill vase form with a clock and lion and unicorn to either side occurs in the Victorian period. Was our rare "Sherratt" version its inspiration?