Staffordshire Figure, Possibly Inspired by a Circus Poster, c. 1860

Staffordshire figure, depicting an enormous brightly painted bird dangling a woman over a waterfall.

It has been suggested the subject of this harrowing group is the fabled Roc bird of "The Arabian Nights." While the Roc does make a few appearances with Sinbad the Sailor, it is with an elephant and not a damsel in distress. And yet this scene does not seem to depict a biblical or mythological story either, so until a better explanation comes along, the Roc is the best we have.

The traveling circus was one of the most popular venues where Staffordshire figures were sold. Whereas souvenirs today consist of t-shirts and ball caps, patrons of the Victorian era often bought these inexpensive, brightly colored figurines. The Staffordshire potters often took their designs from the promotional posters which appeared weeks before the circus' arrival, giving them plenty of production time. [1] It's entirely possible this scene was lifted from such a poster.

[1] For a delightful and informative essay on Staffordshire pottery and circuses in 19th century England, see Anthony Oliver, "Staffordshire Pottery the Tribal Art of England" (London, William Heineman, Ltd, 1981), 68-72.

England c. 1860
5.5" long x 3" deep x 12.75" high


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