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William Shakespeare

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Burslem (made)

  • Date:

    late 18th century - early 19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Wood, Enoch, born 1759 - died 1840 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Glazed earthenware

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This bust of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) is by Enoch Wood (1759-1840), one of the greatest Staffordshire potters, a talented modeller and an artist of considerable merit who produced relief plaques and fine portrait busts. He also ran a highly successful business manufacturing wares of all types with a large American export trade. He produced more than 500 designs of mostly English, French and American scenes for transfer-printed wares. Wood was a philanthropic benefactor who came to be known as the ‘Father of the Potteries’; when he died his home town of Burslem went into mourning for a week.

Several different figurines and busts were produced of William Shakespeare by Staffordshire pottery firms, especially around the time of the tricentenary of his birth in 1864. This appears to have been based on an engraving of the Chandos portrait of Shakespeare which some consider to be the most reliable record of his appearance. Now in the National Portrait Gallery, it was owned by the actor Thomas Betterton, painted probably between 1603 and 1610, showing Shakespeare as a rather swarthy middle-aged Jacobean man with a receding hairline, goatee beard and moustache. Another famous early depiction of Shakespeare is the copper engraving by Martin Droeshout published as a frontispiece to the First Folio in 1623, but since the artist was only fifteen when Shakespeare died, he probably worked from descriptions of Shakespeare by his friends.

Physical description

Glazed earthenware bust of William Shakespeare on an integral rectangular bottomed plinth, glazed to imitate marble and decorated with gold lines. Wearing a black cape or jacket over a white shirt with gold buttons, gold string neck tie and gold curled decoration on the collar. The shirt is painted with sprigged decorative motifs of purple and magenta flowers. He has brown painted hair and beard.

Place of Origin

Burslem (made)


late 18th century - early 19th century (made)


Wood, Enoch, born 1759 - died 1840 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Glazed earthenware

Marks and inscriptions

'SALTER COLLECTION / ACQUIRED / Enoch Wood "Shakespeare" / Aug/Sep 1881 Brereton / ACQUIRED / Aug/Sept. 1881 Brereton'
Printed lable inside base at back - date is of acquisition by previous owner


Height: 24.0 cm, Width: 16.1 cm maximum, Width: 8.8 cm of base, Depth: 7.8 cm of base

Descriptive line

Bust of William Shakespeare. Glazed earthenware modelled by Enoch Wood (1759-1840), Burslem, Staffordshire

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Victorian Staffordshire Figures 1835-1875 Book One, by A & N. Harding


Earthenware; Glaze


Moulding; Firing (heating); Painting; Glazing (coating)


Entertainment & Leisure; Figures & Decorative ceramics; Theatre


Theatre and Performance Collection

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