|Staffordshire Flatback, 1840|
Joseph Grimaldi (Joey the Clown)
The Victoria & Albert Museum
1837 saw a new trend in production for the porcelain makers of Staffordshire when they introduced lead-glazed earthenware flat-back figures of Queen Victoria. These figures were painted in enamels on the front while the back, (which was, you can guess, flat) was left white. In tended to be displayed on a mantelpiece, sideboard or any location where the reverse of the piece was against a wall, these figures quickly became popular.
Flatbacks were soon produced depicting a variety of subject from Royalty and historic figures to actors and celebrities. The modelers often referred to popular prints of the day in order to find subjects and depict them somewhat accurately.
This one is modeled after a print of the famed Regency Panto clown Joseph Grimaldi (Joey the Clown, 1779-1837) who found much success with “Mother Goose” in 1806 at Covent Garden. Grimaldi was revered as a comic singer, a daring acrobat and as a performer who could make dozens of unexpected costume changes during his routine. He was so renowned that, to this day, the name “Joey” is often used as a nickname for a clown. This Staffordshire figure is dated to about 1840, but, sadly, we have no way of knowing the name of the modeler.