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Statuette - The Continents

The Continents

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Devon (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1770 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Plymouth Porcelain Factory (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hard-paste porcelain

  • Credit Line:

    Transferred from the Museum of Practical Geology, Jermyn Street

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 53a, case 1

Object Type
The figure is emblematic of Europe. It is a purely decorative piece from a set representing the Four Continents. Each of the figures is frontally posed, and the backs are poorly finished, so they were probably intended to be set against a wall. They may have been displayed set out on a chimneypiece or other domestic furnishing.

The Four Continent set of figures was first made by the Nicholas Crisp (born about 1704; died 1774) and John Saunders partnership at Vauxhall in London. The modeller has not been identified. However, the Neo-classical sculptor John Bacon the Elder (1740-1799) was apprenticed to Crisp, and is said to have modelled for the factory. On the other hand, Crisp also employed a modeller and mould-maker named Hammersley, who later worked at Plymouth, where this figure was made. Even if he did not model the figure, Hammersley may have made the moulds in which they were cast, and he presumably took the moulds or casting models from London to Plymouth. The Plymouth factory was founded by William Cookworthy (1705-1780), an apothecary. Cookworthy had discovered the raw materials required for 'true' or hard-paste porcelain when prospecting in Cornwall in the 1740s, but he did not succeed in manufacturing it on a commercial scale until 1768.

Place of Origin

Devon (made)


ca. 1770 (made)


Plymouth Porcelain Factory (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Hard-paste porcelain


Height: 32.7 cm, Width: 13.4 cm

Object history note

From a set of 'The Continents'. Made at the Plymouth porcelain factory, Devon.

Given by Mrs. Nelson of Plymouth. Transferred from the Museum of Practical Geology, Jermyn Street

Descriptive line

Figure of 'Europe', from a set of the four 'Continents', hard-paste porcelain, Plymouth porcelain factory, England, ca. 1770

Labels and date

British Galleries:
In the late 1760s Plymouth became the first British factory to make hard-paste porcelain of the Chinese type. Production there was the result of more than 20 years of experimentation and prospecting for raw materials. Even so, the factory experienced great difficulties firing the porcelain, as indicated by the smoke-staining here. [27/03/2003]


Ceramics; Figures & Decorative ceramics


Ceramics Collection

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