Figure of the month

The New Marriage Act group

courtesy Sheppard's Irish Auction House
April 2020

​I would not normally put up a damaged figure as Figure of the Month but this example of “The New Marriage Act” really caught my eye in the O’Mahoney Collection sale by Sheppard’s Irish Auction House (24th March 2020). In New Marriage Act figure groups, the bride and groom stand before a parson, whilst a young clerk beseeches the heavens for approval of the union. These groups commemorate the passage of The New Marriage Act of 1823, legislation that reinforced marriage.

Prior to 1823, persnickety marriage law made marriage difficult, and also made it quite easy to make a mistake. If a couple failed to comply with all the rules, their marriage was not legal and either party could seek an annulment even many years later. Even if both parties were happy to end their marriage, an annulment had disastrous financial consequences for children who unexpectedly found themselves declared illegitimate. Society expected marriage to last for life, so the New Marriage Act 1823 no longer made it possible to void a marriage for want of a minor mistake in form or fact either before or during the ceremony.  

The reason for my particular attraction to this figure is the fact that the wonderful early blue-tinged glaze is so abundant and visible and this is particularly so on the photograph of the plaque on the figure (left). This example is strikingly similar to that illustrated in Myrna Schkolne’s Staffordshire Figures 1780 to 1840 Volume 4, page 15, figure 139.29.

courtesy Sheppard's Irish Auction House

More Figures of the month

Pair of white cats

May 2023

This is a rare pair of seated cats, approximately 13 ½” tall.  They are decorated in bright gold and date to around 1870-1880.  Harding Book Two illustrates this impressive pair on page 239.  

Tiger and lion

April 2023

This is a rare figure of a tiger and lion lying in front of a palm tree.  Circus acts with wild animals became very popular in England during the 1830s and it is possible that this figure as well as other animal figures commemorated these events. 

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. 


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