Not currently on display at the V&A

John Liston as Sam Swipes

Figurine
ca.1840 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

In the 19th century the stars of the day were often celebrated in paintings, prints and drawings, in ceramic figures and even Toby jugs. Several factories in Staffordshire specialised in producing moulded earthenware portrait figurines, decorated by hand and sold cheaply. This figurine depicts John Liston (1776-1846) as Sam Swipes, the comic figure he played in Theodore Hook's play Exchange No Robbery at the Haymarket Theatre in 1820. It was based on a contemporary lithograph published by J.W. Gear.

Despite a rather serious temperament, John Liston became one of the greatest comedians of all time, achieving his greatest successes in farce, and particularly as Paul Pry, a role in which he was often depicted in paintings, drawings and figurines. Liston was the first comic actor to command a salary greater than a tragedian, earning the vast salary of sixty to a hundred pounds a week with Madame Vestris's company at the Olympic Theatre. He retired in 1837 after a successful stage career lasting over thirty years.

Object details

Categories
Object type
TitleJohn Liston as Sam Swipes (generic title)
Materials and techniques
Glazed earthenware
Brief description
Glazed earthenware figurine of John Liston (1776-1846) as Sam Swipes in the comedy Exchange No Robbery, by Theodore Hook, Haymarket Theatre, 12 August 1820. Enoch Wood & Sons, ca.1840
Physical description
Figurine of John Liston in costume as the character Sam Swipes. He is wearing a double-breasted green coat, a maroon waistcoat, a white shirt, yellow and maroon polka dot cravat, tan breeches with the hem buttons undone, blue and white stockings, black shoes, and a white apron. He is leaning against a pedestal and has his hands in his pockets.
Dimensions
  • Height: 16.5cm
  • Maximum width width: 6.5cm
  • Of base height: 1.5cm
  • Of base depth: 6.5cm
Marks and inscriptions
'No! Am I a Gentleman? / Upon your Soul tho' Mother' (On front of base)
Credit line
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996
Object history
This figurine is based on the print of Sam Swipes by J.W. Gear. Exchange No Robbery was a comedy in three acts by Theodore E. Hooke, first produced at the Haymarket Theatre, 12 August 1820 and again at Drury Lane on 2 January 1826.
Subject depicted
Summary
In the 19th century the stars of the day were often celebrated in paintings, prints and drawings, in ceramic figures and even Toby jugs. Several factories in Staffordshire specialised in producing moulded earthenware portrait figurines, decorated by hand and sold cheaply. This figurine depicts John Liston (1776-1846) as Sam Swipes, the comic figure he played in Theodore Hook's play Exchange No Robbery at the Haymarket Theatre in 1820. It was based on a contemporary lithograph published by J.W. Gear.

Despite a rather serious temperament, John Liston became one of the greatest comedians of all time, achieving his greatest successes in farce, and particularly as Paul Pry, a role in which he was often depicted in paintings, drawings and figurines. Liston was the first comic actor to command a salary greater than a tragedian, earning the vast salary of sixty to a hundred pounds a week with Madame Vestris's company at the Olympic Theatre. He retired in 1837 after a successful stage career lasting over thirty years.
Bibliographic reference
Staffordshire Portrait Figures of the Victorian Era by P.D. Gordon Pugh, p.439.
Collection
Accession number
S.950-1996

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Record createdDecember 12, 2005
Record URL
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