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David Garrick as Richard III

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Staffordshire (made)

  • Date:

    ca.1840 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (makers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Glazed earthenware

  • Credit Line:

    Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Earthenware flatbacks and figurines for mantelpiece decoration were first produced in Staffordshire in the late 1830s. The earliest datable figures appear to be of Queen Victoria. Production of earthenware figures continued throughout Victoria's lifetime, but although they were still made after her death in 1901, few appear to have been produced after 1905. During their heyday, however, they were produced in vast numbers, usually modelled after prints. They represented a wide variety of subjects but those of actors and actresses were especially popular. This flatback represents David Garrick as Richard III in the famous tent scene before the Battle of Bosworth, haunted by the ghosts of those he has murdered. It was modelled after a painting of 1745 by William Hogarth which was later reproduced in engravings. In the painting his hand is raised in a gesture of horror and not as the rather benign royal wave it appears to be in the flatback.

David Garrick (1717-1779) was recognised during his lifetime as one of the greatest actors in both comedy and tragedy. He was born in Hereford, came to London in 1737 to work as a wine merchant but made his London debut as an actor at Goodman's Fields as Richard III in 1741. He managed the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, from 1747 until 1776 and was depicted in many of his most famous roles during his lifetime, especially in paintings by Johann Zoffany (1733-1810). Richard III was a role with which he was especially associated, both from his London debut and from his first appearance at Drury Lane Theatre on 11 May 1742.

Physical description

Glazed earthenware flatback figure of David Garrick as Richard III seated in a white tent, the top finial of which is pink. His right arm is raised, his left hand rests on the bench on which he is sitting. His coat is painted pink with a textured 'ermine' border and there are gilt details on the tent and on his costume. His hair, moustache and goatee beard are painted light brown. There is a hole broken in the base and the overglaze black of his shoes and hair has been rubbed off in places.

Place of Origin

Staffordshire (made)


ca.1840 (made)


Unknown (makers)

Materials and Techniques

Glazed earthenware


Height: 25.7 cm, Width: 18.2 cm, Height: 2.2 cm of base, Width: 7.4 cm of base, Depth: 7.5 cm of base

Object history note

David Garrick first played Richard III at Goodman's Fields in October 1741 but returned to the part several times during his career. The source of this figure is an engraving made after a painting by Hogarth entitled 'Nightmare Scene', showing Garrick in the role. This figure was issued in three sizes, the largest of which featured the words 'Richard the Third' on the base.

Descriptive line

Glazed earthenware figure of David Garrick (1717-1779) as Richard III in Shakespeare's tragedy Richard III which he first played at Goodman's Fields, 19 October 1741. Staffordshire, ca.1840

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

Victoria Staffordshire Figures 1835-1875 by A & N Harding, 1998. p.297, fig.1079

Production Note

The flatback was modelled after the 1745 oil painting by William Hogarth of Richard III in his tent before the Battle of Bosworth.


Earthenware; Glaze


Moulding; Firing (heating); Painting; Glazing (coating)


Entertainment & Leisure; Figures & Decorative ceramics; Ceramics; Earthenware


Theatre and Performance Collection

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