Collecting Staffordshire Figures – The earliest Staffordshire figures were made in the late 18th century to undersell Derby porcelain and to copy the fine but expensive figures produced by the top Continental factories such as Meissen. Square-based with a pearlware glaze, they graced many an elegant Georgian drawing room.
As the 19th century progressed mass production techniques improved and the increase in industrialization brought a burgeoning middle class with more disposable income and a desire for decorative ornaments. They could not afford the finest porcelain, but Staffordshire earthenware figures with flat, undecorated backs were an ideal alternative.
Staffordshire figure of a female musician, 1825, offered by Andrew Dando, Online Galleries
The real growth in production of the portrait figure kept pace with the illustrious reign of Queen Victoria. Indeed, the innumerable representations of Victoria, Prince Albert and their children were very popular.
Staffordshire Tam O Shanter & Sooter Johnny figure, Victorian era, circa 1892
By the end of the Victorian age, every cosy, over-stuffed parlour in England contained its share of these fascinating figures which reflect the life and times in which they were made. From royalty to politicians, sportsmen to military and theatrical giants and even highwaymen – all were modelled in various guises and today are popular with collectors all over the world.
Victorian Staffordshire Pottery Royal Portrait Figure Group ‘Turkey – England – France’ (Sultan Abd-ul Medjid, Queen Victoria, and Napoleon Bonaparte III, allies in the Crimean War, standing together on a gilt lined titled base with raised gilt capitals), circa 1854
Animals were among the most popular subjects of the Staffordshire potters. Rarer species such as elephants, giraffes and zebras, which most people had the opportunity to see in books, were hugely popular, but so were the more common domestic animals such as flatback group of a King Charles spaniel.
Collectors’ notes: look for finely detailed floral decorations, a good facial detail (feathered eyebrows and painted and scratched hair), a soft, mellow gilding and finely painted captions.
Victorian Staffordshire figure of Stanfield Hall, circa 1849
– 1820-1830: earthenware body, blue/gray glaze, thickly potted base and decorated in the round;
– 1835-1845: creamy white body prone to staining, colorless glaze, flat base, gently concaved with small, gas escape holes and decorated in the round;
– 1845-1900: coarser earthware body, blue-tinged glaze, concave base, gas escape hole in the back of the figure and decorated in the front only.
Staffordshire King Charles Spaniel