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  • Place of origin:

    Staffordshire (made)

  • Date:

    19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Glazed earthenware

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Almaza Gertrude Morton

  • 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 The Chandos portrait of Shakespeare which is considered 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 Droushaut 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 ceramic bust of William Shakespeare with underglaze painted light brown hair, moustache and beard, a white collar edged with light brown paint, used also for detail on his cord tie and around his four buttons. Strips of green baize fabric have been glued to the integral base which is veined in grey and green paint to resemble marble.

Place of Origin

Staffordshire (made)


19th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Glazed earthenware


Height: 23 cm, Width: 16.2 cm at widest point across his cape, Diameter: 9.6 cm

Descriptive line

Glazed earthenware bust of William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Glazed earthenware, Staffordshire, late 19th century.

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

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


Earthenware; Glaze


Ceramics; Figures & Decorative ceramics; Entertainment & Leisure


Theatre and Performance Collection

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