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

A pair of clowns

December 2023

This is a fine pair of Staffordshire clowns, both standing 6 ½” tall, dating to circa 1860.  Each is wearing pantaloons, with the figure on the left holding a cane. 

Scottish hunter

November 2023

This is an interesting example of a Scottish hunter, wearing kilt and underglaze blue coat, with a dog at his knee and a rifle resting near his right hand.  The figure stands 14 ¼” tall and dates to about 1860.

A pair of Bullmastiffs

October 2023

This is a pair of recumbent Bullmastiff dogs, approximately 6” tall, dating to around 1850-1860. This English breed was developed as a guard dog in the nineteenth century and is also known as the Gamekeeper’s Night Dog.

Prince of Wales

September 2023

This is a rare figure of Prince Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales, second child and eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He stands with his right hand resting on the head of a brown and white dog, and his left hand on the barrel of a rifle.

Sailors with cannon

August 2023

This is a rare Crimean War figure representing two naval gunners with a cannon. One sailor stands upright with his right foot on the cannon, and his right hand to his head as if saluting.  The second sailor is kneeling while priming the cannon. 

Winter and Summer

July 2023

This is a rare pair of Staffordshire figures representing two of the four seasons, Winter and Summer.  Each figure stands a little over 6 ½” tall and dates to around 1850 – 1860.


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