Figure of the month

Rinaldo and Armida

January 2020

The characters of Rinaldo and Armida are from Torquato Tasso’s poem “La Gerusalemme Liberata” (Jerusalem Delivered) circa 1581. The poem’s tale is one of love and heroism in battle during the First Crusade (1096-1099). The sorceress Armida is sent to kill the knight Rinaldo, but instead falls in love with him and bewitches him. By 1600, the poem had been translated into English, and it was to remain popular in England into the nineteenth century, inspiring music, plays and numerous paintings. Notably in 1711, Handel’s opera “Rinaldo” was London’s first Italian opera.

Acknowledgement:  Myrna Schkolne, Staffordshire Figures 1780-1840 Volume 2, page 4

Anthony van Dyck made two paintings of this subject. His 1629 painting and the Derby figure of the late 1770s show Rinaldo with his eyes closed. Coincidentally in 1629 Poussin also painted the subject with a sleeping Rinaldo. These portrayals depict the moment at which vengeful Armida finds Rinaldo asleep, but overwhelmed by his beauty is unable to kill him.

However, in van Dyck’s 1634/5 painting of Rinaldo and Armida, Rinaldo’s eyes are open. The scene painted by Van Dyck shows a tender moment between the couple before Rinaldo’s comrades, who are approaching in the background, disturb their idyll and compel Rinaldo to return to the fight. This earthenware figure also shows Rinaldo’s eyes open, as Armida dangles a laurel crown over his head, although the laurel crown is sadly missing here.

Anthony van Dyck’s 1634/5 painting is now in the collection of the National Gallery, London, where you can read more about the subject and examine a high resolution image of the painting.

More Figures of the month

Lady Godiva

March 2023

This is a rare figure portraying Lady Godiva seated sidesaddle on horseback.  The figure is titled “Lady Godiva” and is decorated in the manner of the Parr factory, with soft yellow, green, and brown brushstrokes.

Lost Piece

February 2023

This is an early Staffordshire figure of a woman standing on a grassy pedestal, with a coin in her extended hand.  The figure is titled “Lost Piece” and represents the biblical verses found in Luke 15:8-10.

William Shakespeare

January 2023

This is a gilt script titled figure of William Shakespeare with his right arm resting on a book atop a pedestal.  Next to the pedestal is a sloped watch holder with a clock face painted inside, sitting atop a tree decorated with grapes.

Children on Saint Bernard dogs

December 2022

This is a very rare pair of children seated sideways on Saint Bernards.  More common figures have the children laying down or seated facing forward.  Others have the rear arms moulded into the figures, instead of being separately moulded as these are.  These figures are approximately 10” tall and date to around 1840-1850. 

King of Sardinia

November 2022

This is a rare figure of Victor Emmanuel II, the King of Sardinia and later the first King of Italy.  The figure is titled with gold accented raised capitals, stands approximately 12 3/4” tall, and dates to about 1855.  It is probably a Crimean war figure, with Emmanuel being shown in military uniform. 

Bluebeard and Fatima

October 2022

This is a rare figure of Bluebeard and Fatima, approximately 12 1/2” tall, dating to 1858. Bluebeard is easily recognized with his blue beard. He stands upright with a knife in his right hand and left hand on his hip. Fatima is kneeling before Bluebeard with eyes cast upward toward him, hands folded in a prayer-like position.


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