"The Merry Wives of Windsor"
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Parian ware, as we know, is the unglazed development of biscuit porcelain. The medium became very popular after the Staffordshire firm of Copeland and Garrett introduced it in 1842 as a medium for busts, statuettes and reliefs.
Several different British pottery concerns marketed the medium under a different name but “Parian” remained the generic term after Minton used “Parian” to suggest Paros, the Greek island which supplied a lot the marble used for Classical statuary. Now, to be sure, Parian ware was not inexpensive, however, it was more cost effective than marble, and it gave households the appearance of owning a marble bust or figurine, previously only afforded by the very wealthy.
The Worcester firm, makers of the example we see pictured above, started their production of Parian relatively late in the game. After Worcester launched a range of Parian objects at the Dublin Exhibition in 1853, James Hadley (1837-1903), their chief modeler, created a host of new Parian objects, including the Shakespeare subjects of Lady Macbeth and King Lear. Meanwhile another Worcester modeler, William Boynton Kirk, produced a dozen figural groups based on characters from A Midsummer Night's Dream.
This Worcester piece, dating to about 1850, was most likely modeled by James Hadley (1837-1903) and shows the scene from The Merry Wives of Windsorwhen “Mistresses Page” and Ford humiliate Falstaff in retaliation for his amorous advances by hiding him in a laundry basket which Mrs. Ford's servants, naturally, leave in the river—as one does. The front of the base incised THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.