Sir John Falstaff

Figurine
ca.1850 (made)
Not currently on display at the V&A

Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Earthenware flatbacks and figurines for mantelpiece decoration were first produced in Staffordshire in the late 1830s. The earliest datable pieces appear to have been of the young Queen Victoria who was crowned in 1837. Images of royalty proved a lucrative market and between the late 1830s and the turn of the century a host of figurines were produced, celebrating figures in the royal family, politics, the navy, the Church, popular fiction, sport, circus and the theatre. The poses were frequently copied from engravings, but this figurine of Falstaff was copied from an earlier figure, made by the Derby factory, of James Quin (1693-1766) as Shakespeare's corpulent Falstaff, the character who appears in both the Henry IV plays and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Quin was Britain's foremost actor after the death of Robert Wilks in 1732 and before the London début of David Garrick in 1741, and could command extremely high salaries wherever he appeared. His fame would have ensured that he was remembered by many in the 19th century when this was made, but this figure probably sold well because it was of Falstaff rather than because of the fame of its original subject, Quin.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Glazed earthenware
Brief Description
Figurine of Falstaff, modelled after the earlier Derby figurine of the actor James Quin (1693-1766) as Sir John Falstaff, glazed earthenware, Staffordshire, ca.1850
Physical Description
Staffordshire figurine of Falstaff after the Derby model, standing on the green painted surface of an irregularly shaped white base with blue painted decoration. He wears a brown hat, a royal blue waistcoat lined with yellow, a cream jerkin decorated with yellow and purple floral motifs, gold buttons, brown belt, pink striped trousers and tan boots. He carries a shield on his left arm and the hilt of a sword in his right hand.
Dimensions
  • Height: 21.9cm
  • Width: 13.5cm (maximum)
  • Base depth: 10.6cm (maximum)
  • Base width: 10.8cm (maximum)
Object history
The first Derby figure, after which this was copied, probably dates from the death of James Quin in 1766. Although the first figure was clean-shaven, subsequent figures were bearded; later there was a reversion to the beardless type. James Quin was famous for having played Falstaff without a beard.
Association
Summary
Earthenware flatbacks and figurines for mantelpiece decoration were first produced in Staffordshire in the late 1830s. The earliest datable pieces appear to have been of the young Queen Victoria who was crowned in 1837. Images of royalty proved a lucrative market and between the late 1830s and the turn of the century a host of figurines were produced, celebrating figures in the royal family, politics, the navy, the Church, popular fiction, sport, circus and the theatre. The poses were frequently copied from engravings, but this figurine of Falstaff was copied from an earlier figure, made by the Derby factory, of James Quin (1693-1766) as Shakespeare's corpulent Falstaff, the character who appears in both the Henry IV plays and The Merry Wives of Windsor.



Quin was Britain's foremost actor after the death of Robert Wilks in 1732 and before the London début of David Garrick in 1741, and could command extremely high salaries wherever he appeared. His fame would have ensured that he was remembered by many in the 19th century when this was made, but this figure probably sold well because it was of Falstaff rather than because of the fame of its original subject, Quin.
Associated Objects
Bibliographic Reference
Staffordshire Portrait Figures of the Victorian Era by P.D. Gordon Pugh
Collection
Accession Number
S.2063-1986

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record createdNovember 7, 2005
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