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  • Place of origin:

    Staffordshire (made)

  • Date:

    ca.1840 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Glazed and painted earthenware

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Almaza Gertrude Morton

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This shows the great English actor-manager Edmund Kean (1787-1833) in the title role of Shakespeare's Richard III which he first played at Drury Lane Theatre on 12 February 1814. It became one of his most admired roles, along with Macbeth and Iago. Kean's natural passion and fiery spirit suited a melodramatic style of acting, but he nevertheless made his name playing in Shakespeare. He was said to be at his best in death scenes, and scenes that required intensity of feeling or violent transitions from one mood to another, prompting the poet Coleridge to note that watching Kean act was like 'reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightning'.

Kean's private life was as colourful as that of many of his stage characters. The son of a strolling player Anne Carey, he started his career as an 'infant prodigy' performing at fairs. When he made his Drury Lane debut as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice in 1814, Kean replaced Kemble as the darling of the London stage. Despite scandals in his own life, Kean educated his son Charles at Eton in an unsuccessful attempt to deter him too from a stage career.

Physical description

Glazed figure of Edmund Kean as Richard III, standing with his legs apart, his weight on his left leg with the knee bent, his right leg straight, looking to his right. He is wearing white breeches striped in gold, a white breast-plate delineated with gold, and a knee-length cloak lined in orange and edged with a white border painted with grey paint to resemble ermine. He wears a white hat, yellow gauntlets, yellow-topped black boots and in his right hand carries the handle of a former sword, now missing. Strips of green baize have been glued to the irregularly-shaped base.

Place of Origin

Staffordshire (made)


ca.1840 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Glazed and painted earthenware


Height: 28 cm, Width: 20 cm at widest point, Width: 16.0 cm of base, Depth: 9.0 cm of base at the deepest point

Object history note

Richard III was the subject of one of Shakespeare's historical plays in which Richard is sent to the Tower by Bolingbroke. This figure of Richard III was originally produced as one of a pair with Henry Earl of Richmond. It was based on a toy theatre print entitled 'Mr Kean as Richard III'.

Descriptive line

Glazed earthenware figure of Edmund Kean as Richard III, Staffordshire, ca.1830

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

Victorian Staffordshire Figures 1835-1875 by A & N. Harding, 1998. p.297, fig 1083


Earthenware; Paint; Glaze


Figures & Decorative ceramics; Entertainment & Leisure


Theatre and Performance Collection

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