Sunday, April 7, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Henry V Trying on the Crown, 1847

Henry V Trying on the Crown
Staffordshire, 1847
The Victoria  Albert Museum

"Flatbacks," as they are known for the shape of their backs, and Earthenware figurines for mantelpiece decoration by Staffordshire became popular in the mid-1830s. We’ve looked at the earliest datable figures by Staffordshire—those of Queen Victoria—and we’ve seen that until about 1905 many figures were produced of popular people and scenes representing a wide variety of subjects. 

This figure dates to 1847 and depicts Henry V trying on the crown. This, obviously, is meant to mimic a scene of Henry V from the play which bears his name. According to the V&A, “Although the play Henry V was staged in the early 19th century, by Macready in 1819 and Kean in 1830 and 1839, who both starred as the King, we do not know if this figurine represents any specific actor.”

Clearly, however, the figure is modeled on an engraving which itself was based on a painting that had been displayed at the Westminster Hall in 1847. The painting was John Calcott Horsley's painting Henry V and showed the moment when the Prince of Wales, believing the King to be Dead, takes the crown from the cushion and places it on his head.

Of course, much drama ensued. However, this quiet figurine exists simply to look lovely and does a fine job of it.

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