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Antiques Considered - October 9, 2013

This week we have an interesting historical anomaly in that the owner of these two pieces of Staffordshire, which he purchased separately over 30 years ago, has English pottery depicting one of England’s greatest enemies, Napoleon Bonaparte. Both are in excellent condition, and are part of his Napoleonia collection.


The Staffordshire potters were eager to make wares that would sell, thus images of the likes Napoleon, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, appeared on all types of figurines, tablewares, and plaques. These two are typical of the production of the second quarter of the 19th century.

Napoleon Bonaparte was England’s greatest enemy prior to Adolf Hitler. That British forces fought him for two decades until his ultimate defeat at Waterloo, Belgium, in June 1815, did not keep the potters from recognizing that they had a ready market, particularly in America, for items with his image on them.

The bust of Napoleon was done in concert with one of Alexander I, the Emperor of Russia, and usually they were sold as a pair, the twofold reference being to the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807, when the two emperors agreed to divide Europe, juxtaposed five years later against the French invasion of Russia.

On the bust of Alexander often one finds the inscription, “Moscow burnt. Europe saved,” meaning that in his foolish invasion of Russia Napoleon decimated his forces to such an extent that the rest of Europe had the opportunity to regroup and defeat him at Waterloo three years later.

The standing figurine is worth $100; it is a nice example, but somewhat crudely molded. The bust is a fine piece of pottery, excellently molded and painted, and is worth $350. It is one of the best busts that I have seen, and could bring even more at a good auction.

Happy Antiquing!

 

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