Staffordshire Pottery Auction: Adultery and the Friday Night Thrill Show

Published 7th August 2012

Ivan Mazeppa was a very naughty boy who in the 17th century was caught in flagrante with a nobleman's wife. His punishment was to be tied to the back of a wild Ukrainian horse that was chased by hounds. The horse eventually died but he didn't. He was rescued by Cossacks with whom he fought for in several battles.


A Staffordshire Pottery figure of Ivan Mazeppa's punishment.

Mazeppa came to the attention of the public after Byron wrote about him in 1819 and shortly after it was performed as an 'equestrian drama' in the Old Vic.

But what are we to make of the zebra, was this artistic licence by a bored decorator on a Friday evening. I wish it was, but sadly no? By the 1830s, this was a cheap and easy to stage thrill show for travelling circuses who vied with each other for prominence and a naked guy on zebra was a gimmick to pull in the public.

Another Staffordshire Pottery, but apparently not artistic 
licence on the Mazeppa theme by a bored decorator!


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