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  • Place of origin:

    Staffordshire, England (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    late 19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (production)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Glazed earthenware, painted in enamels and gilt

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

There was a flourishing market in the 19th century for small, decorative ceramic items, especially for earthenware figurines of actors and actresses. Small mass-produced busts such as this were also popular since the owner would have felt they bestowed the mark of a cultivated person when displayed in their home. Several different figurines and busts were produced of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) by Staffordshire pottery firms, especially around the time of the tricentenary of his birth in 1864.

This bust 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 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 a pedestal painted in enamels and gilt.

Place of Origin

Staffordshire, England (possibly, made)


late 19th century (made)


Unknown (production)

Materials and Techniques

Glazed earthenware, painted in enamels and gilt


Height: 21.6 cm

Descriptive line

Glazed earthenware bust of William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Earthenware, painted in enamels and gilt, Staffordshire, late 19th century.

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

Victorian Staffordshire Figures 1835-1875 Book One, by A & N. Harding
p.126, fig.314

Associated names



Earthenware; Glaze

Subjects depicted

Shakespeare, William


Sculpture; Earthenware

Collection code


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