Here is one I had not seen before--and I am always looking for the unusual. The subject, Winter, is well represented in Staffordshire. But I have never seen this figure form, nor the other three figures that would complete this set of the Four Seasons.
Charming figure, isn't he? Look at those hands, ruddy from the cold and the thick fur on his hat and coat. He wears skates, as do many other Winters. But I have never seen Spring, Autumn, or Summer from this set. Have you?
How many enamel painted versions of the Seasons did the Potteries produce in the early 1800s? More than 20--I don't know exactly how many more, but I am working on it! Many of the sets are known from only one or two figures, but it seems reasonable to conclude that full sets were made. Some of the figures are quite small--notably the exquisitely delicate 51/2" figures first made by Neale & Co. in the 1780s and continued by the Wilson family until 1820. Others can be large and elaborate, such as the Walton figure, almost 9", with bocage. Some are male, others female. The variety is astounding!
In the 18thC the Four Seasons were especially symbolic because of James Thom's four poems, one named for each season. They first appeared as a complete edition titiled Seasons in 1730 and became perennial favorites. In the early 19thC the poems' focus on landscape made them particularly pertinent because the cult of the picturesque had fashionable folk scouring the countryside for artistic vistas. The Romantic Period of 1800-1830 renewed appreciation of the sentimental component of the poems and a range of decorative objects--including Staffordshire figures--reflected their significance.
Of course, I have no way of knowing who made this figure, but I have a theory. The over-emphasized modelling of the hands and bulging, heavily lidded eyes are typical of Ralph Wood toby jugs and figures. Could this be a Ralph Wood figure? He is almost 7" tall.