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

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

July 2024

This is a rare Staffordshire figure of a woman seated on a couch, with her dog beside her.  It is generally believed to represent Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and her dog Flush. This figure stands about 5 ¼” tall and dates to approximately 1846-1850.

A pair of camels

June 2024

This is an interesting pair of Staffordshire camels, each about 6 1/4” tall, and dating to approximately 1860. 

Prophet Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath

May 2024

This is a fine pair of early Staffordshire figures of Elijah, the Old Testament prophet, and the Widow of Zarephath. This pair of figures is attributed to Obadiah Sherratt, the table bases, bocage, and flowers being typical of Sherratt.   

Boys playing cricket

April 2024

This is a pair of Staffordshire figures of unidentified boys playing cricket, standing 6 ½” and 6 ¾” tall, dating to around 1850. 

Tom King and Dick Turpin

March 2024

This is a fine pair of Staffordshire figures of Tom King and Dick Turpin, probably originating from a theatrical production.  Note the four separately moulded legs on each horse. 


February 2024

This is a theatrical figure representing an actor in the role of Artabanes, from the opera Artaxerxes. The figure stands 11 3/4” tall, dates to approximately 1830-1840, and is very rare. There is a dagger in his right hand, part of the blade being hidden beneath his sash.  The interior and the edging of his coat are fully lined with ermine.


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