Published 22nd October 2014
It was in my blog dated 6th September 2012 that I mentioned ceramic portraits of Napoleon Bonaparte, and it seems two years later and just in time for Halloween that the Bogey Man has returned. I am still fascinated as to why the British would chose to make commemorative ceramic pieces celebrating arch enemies. Sure there are exceptions. Bovey Tracey produced a World War II series entitled ‘Our Gang’, which included soldiers, sailors, wardens and allied leaders, so it seems ‘sort of’ obvious that they would include figures of Hitler and Mussolini as well. The latter are subsequently pretty rare things, I guess either because they were poor sellers or poorly cared for impulse purchases.
A Staffordshire pearl glazed bust of Napoleon circa 1815 (FS24/439).
There is of course always a space for a cheap joke and these tend to be at the ‘toy’ end of the market such as the novelty chamber pot cum ashtray, marked Fieldings (presumably for S Fielding & Co. of Stoke) illustrated above which has an portrait of Hitler on the interior which invites you to ‘Flip your ashes on old nasty’ and infers that you could make a far worse deposit on him.
An unflattering Feilding & Co novelty.
However, back to Napoleon - the joke need not always be a cheap one. The Cambrian pottery of Dillwyn & Co of Swansea, produced circa 1815, a very desirable jug decorated with a hilarious cartoon after James Brindley entitled ‘Bonapart Dethron’d’ in which our nemesis is taunted by locals and the devil beneath the speech bubble ‘Oh cursed ambition, what hast thou bought Me to Now’?
A Dillwyn (Swansea) jug of Napoleon Dethroned.
I can understand why the British would wish to portray a defeated foe in a negative light, but for the life of me I cannot comprehend why a potter would wish to produce a flatteringly modelled portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte seemingly months, at most after his defeat by Wellington, and who at that turbulent time, would want to give one pride of place in their library? However, enough water has flowed under the bridge for it to be seen as a sensitively painted bust in which he seems reflective and melancholy, even regretful perhaps.
A diminuative gilt metal model of Napoleon's coffin.
Although not a piece of ceramic I can help including a small gilt metal novelty (presumably made for attachment to a fob seal or similar) that was consigned for sale recently, that rather shows Napoleon Bonaparte as a Bogey Man. A tiny thing scarcely bigger than a £1 coin it is a sarcophagus shaped coffin, the lid bearing a large ‘N’ within a wreath, presumably produced after his death in 1821. It has a button at one end which ejects a spring loaded and fully resurrected Napoleon.
The Bogey Man back from the dead.