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  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1921 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Walker, Agatha (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Moulded plaster, covered in wax and coloured

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Elizabeth Aitken

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is one of several wax figurines executed by Agatha Walker in the 1920s, mostly of actors and actresses in character in successful London stage productions. The 19th century saw a craze for ceramic figurines of performers and Agatha Walker attempted to revive this tradition with her limited edition sculptures, modelled from life in plaster and coated with a fine layer of wax which was then coloured. In 1931 Agatha Walker's wax figures were exhibited at the Fine Art Society.

This represents the actress and singer Sylvia Nelis as Polly Peachum in John Gay's The Beggar's Opera which opened at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith on 5 June 1920. It was one of a set of characters from the opera produced by Agatha Walker in 1921. This revival of the 18th century operetta ran for 1463 performances and was a great success for the theatre's owner Sir Nigel Playfair who had purchased the lease of the derelict theatre building in 1918 in a syndicate. He transformed it into a highly successful venue, putting Hammersmith firmly on the theatrical map.

Physical description

Wax figurine of Sylvia Nelis as Polly Peachum stadning on a light tan coloured base incised with details. She wears a white mob-cap with turquoise-blue ribbon, turquoise-blue bow at the neckline, turquoise-blue mittens and shoes, a pink dress with square-cut neckline edged in white, a white apron and white undersleeves, just visible at the elbows. Her arms are clasped in front of her and her head down and inclined to her right.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1921 (made)


Walker, Agatha (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Moulded plaster, covered in wax and coloured

Marks and inscriptions

'Polly Peachum'
Incised on front of base

Agatha Walker's monogram nad date incised on back of base

Incised on right of base

Incised on left of base

Incised on base


Height: 27.0 cm approx, Width: 20.0 cm approx, at widest point, across skirt

Object history note

The revival of The Beggar's Opera by John Gay in which Sylvia Nelis played Polly Peachum opened at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, 5 June 1920.

Descriptive line

Figurine of Sylvia Nelis as Polly Peachum in The Beggar's Opera, Lyric Hammersmith, 1920. Moulded plaster coated in wax and coloured, by Agatha Walker, 1921.

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

Stage Personalities. The Portrait Statuettes of Agatha Walker The Studio, vol. 101 (1931)


Plaster; Wax; Pigment


Entertainment & Leisure


Theatre and Performance Collection

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