Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Before Video Cameras

I have enjoyed looking at and studying Staffordshire pottery for many years, particularly their Menagerie pieces.  My son's used to tell me "you better hope no one finds out you like glassy things, or they might think you are candy ass....."  :)  What intrigues me is their portrayal of moment's in zoological/circus history.  Staffordshire is not of the caliber of Meissen or other higher quality potteries/porcelains.  It was never meant to be.  It was made for the "common folk" to collect and display and has the charm and beauty, to me, of tramp art and other types of folk art.   Often they were not correct in their portrayal, and that has lead to speculation on what it was they were actually portraying.  These 4 pieces are believed to portray an incident that occurred at Wombells Menagerie in 1834 when two felines escaped from Wombwell’s menagerie and attacked and killed four people, including a mother with a child in her arms. There was a 5th piece for this set, but none are known to exist.   Below is a link to the only thing I could find about the incident in 1834:

22 Jul 1834 - ESCAPE OF A LION & A TIGRESS. - Trove

In the story it notes one person, probably a man killed when he was attacked in the cow pasture after the animal killed sheep and cows.  That was most likely the "Negro" depicted below.  The lion and tiger then killed a mother and child, depicted above, and an 11 year old boy, most likely the missing piece to the set, although there is not even photographic evidence of what the piece looked like. 

This piece and the one below are conundrums, that still have the experts speculating on what they portrayed.  The "Death of A Negro" piece has no body.  Some speculated that the body had been broken off, yet there is no evidence of repair.  Some speculate that the body is inside the animal.  It was a lion and tigeress that got loose, yet this is obviously neither.  I myself wonder if the big black smear on the nose and mouth is not an artist's mistake as some speculate, but rather, given the mind set and prejudice of the if the big black smear is actually what the artist wanted to portray as what was left of the "Negro."


The relative calmness and serenity of this lion, given the horror and carnage of the others in the set has also baffled experts.   Is that supposed to be a "satisfied" look on the lions face, after a night of terror?

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