Phyllis and Strephon

Figure Group
1924 (made)
Not currently on display at the V&A

Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This represents Phyllis and Strephon, characters in Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera Iolanthe, as played by Sydney Granville (1880-1959) and Winifred Lawson (1892-1961) in the D'Oyly Carte Company production at London's Prince's Theatre, which opened in 1924. Strephon is Iolanthe's son, an Arcadian shepherd, who falls in love with Phyllis. Both entered in Act 1 playing on flageolets and wearing these costumes.

Since the D'Oyly Carte was an extremely successful company in the 1920s, new costumes and scenery for their productions were well-publicised. When Norman Wilkinson redesigned the costumes after the dress of 18th century Chelsea porcelain figurines, The Sketch of 13 February 1924 illustrated its front page with an image of Sydney Granville and Winifred Lawson as a piece of china and the headline 'From Dresden to Chelsea: the Re-dressed Phyllis and Strephon in Iolanthe'. This image may well have been the inspiration for this piece, which was made by Ethel Sleigh and Phyllis Simpson, two potters who worked in the 1920s and 1930s with a group who called themselves the Potters' Guild. The group included Bernard Leach, and Charles Vyse who had a studio in Chelsea. This was a unique figurine, never reproduced commercially.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Glazed porcelain
Brief Description
Figure group modelled on Winifred Lawson (1892-1961) and Sydney Granville (1880-1959) as Phyllis and Strephon in the new production of Iolanthe, or the Peer and the Peri by Gilbert & Sullivan, Princes Theatre 1924, glazed earthenware by Phyllis Simpson and Ethel Sleigh
Physical Description
Pair figure group of Phyllis and Strephon in Iolanthe as played by Winifred Lawson and Sydney Granville, both playing pan pipes.They stand on an integral oval, gold-painted wooden base, with a green top, decorated with clusters of primroses. Strephon's cutaway coat and Phyllis's overskirt are of a deep lilac with lighter lilac floral pattern. His breeches and her underskirt are light blue. Both wear powdered wigs and black buckled shoes; green, blue, yellow and orange ribbons hang from their pipes.
Dimensions
  • Approx height: 15.0cm
  • Approx, of oval base width: 20.8cm
  • Depth: 14.0cm
Credit line
Given by Philippa McLiesh
Object history
This figurine was presented by Philippa MacLiesh, the daughter of one of the makers. She wrote to the museum in 1988 saying that her mother, Phyllis Simpson, made it with Ethel Sleigh when they were part of the Potters' Guild in the 1920s and 1930s.
Subjects depicted
Associations
Summary
This represents Phyllis and Strephon, characters in Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera Iolanthe, as played by Sydney Granville (1880-1959) and Winifred Lawson (1892-1961) in the D'Oyly Carte Company production at London's Prince's Theatre, which opened in 1924. Strephon is Iolanthe's son, an Arcadian shepherd, who falls in love with Phyllis. Both entered in Act 1 playing on flageolets and wearing these costumes.



Since the D'Oyly Carte was an extremely successful company in the 1920s, new costumes and scenery for their productions were well-publicised. When Norman Wilkinson redesigned the costumes after the dress of 18th century Chelsea porcelain figurines, The Sketch of 13 February 1924 illustrated its front page with an image of Sydney Granville and Winifred Lawson as a piece of china and the headline 'From Dresden to Chelsea: the Re-dressed Phyllis and Strephon in Iolanthe'. This image may well have been the inspiration for this piece, which was made by Ethel Sleigh and Phyllis Simpson, two potters who worked in the 1920s and 1930s with a group who called themselves the Potters' Guild. The group included Bernard Leach, and Charles Vyse who had a studio in Chelsea. This was a unique figurine, never reproduced commercially.
Bibliographic References
  • Art World February-April 1925
  • The Sketch 13 February 1924.
Collection
Accession Number
S.331-1989

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record createdDecember 15, 2005
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