Category Archives: Art deco

Royal Doulton’s ever popular miniature Polly Peachum figures.

Polly Peachum and her counterparts hold a special place in the hearts of many figure collectors due to her prominent appearance in the HN Collection from 1921 until WWII. Polly is central to Royal Doulton’s first series of figures, designed by Leslie Harradine, and each is based on the Lovett Fraser costumes for the 1920 revival of the opera at the Lyric in Hammersmith, London.

A display of miniature Polly Peachums in an appropriately sized display!

Originally produced in a typical larger size as two models – one standing HN463 (with 6 other colourways) and one curtsying (again with 4 more colourways), the latter is often referred to as Polly Curtsey in early publicity for the Beggars Opera series.

A 1925 calendar with Polly dated 1925.

It is the latter model (316) or second version of Polly that has inspired this post, for as a miniature figure she can be found in more recorded and unrecorded colourways than any other Royal Doulton figure.

Polly mounted on a bell push.

Today she can still be found mounted in all manner of useful objects from calendars to bell pushes, and a host of other objects in between! Whilst more easily found versions of her such as M21 in pink are relatively inexpensive, other more unusual versions can easily reach four figure sums, which considering her diminutive size (6cm) is quite astonishing!

One of a number of colourways that Polly can be found in!

Interestingly the first versions of this miniature Polly appeared in 1925 as part of the HN, thus pre-dating the M series and it is from this period that most unrecorded variations appear. There were 8 original HN colourways of her and the most popular were incorporated into the M series upon its launch in 1932.

Another variation of our heroine!

Questions around the markings on the bases of some of these early versions remain unanswered including why some carry early HN numbers such as HN8. My explanation is that these seemingly erroneous references actually refer to the colour of early full size HN figures such as the Crinoline and Picardy Peasant which have been given to Polly as well.

Polly labelled HN1265 to her base, referencing her colourway based on Lady Fayre HN1265.

Royal Doulton’s ducks, drakes and mallards….

Two drakes and a duck in the medium size c.6″.

Birds featured heavily in the earliest items produced as part of Royal Doulton’s famous HN Collection, which for a generation means simply their legendary figure collection.


A selection of small size drakes and ducks.

The earliest models produced for the range in 1913 were actuallyanimals and there are collectors out there who have managed to source some wondrous and rare examples of these animals.


A further early illustration of medium size mallards, including a spill vase version HN2544.

Doulton themselves were somewhat easygoing when it came to actually naming their animals correctly and occasional slips by them are easily excusable when you see the quality of detail and modelling that was achieved so early on in the 20th century.

A rare and early duck.

When talking about ducks, there are typically large, medium and small examples tombe found of most, although rare character figures of ducks exist such as the example illustrated. Moreover, the large size was added to the Presige range.


A large size ‘Drake’ and Penguin from 1938.

Typically later HN numbers simply refer to modified decoration and some later post WWII examples are very similar to much earlier productions. 


A 1920 publicity photograph featuring some of Doulton’s bird models. 

Royal Doulton’s Masquerade pair.

The sheer variety of early figures in Royal Doulton’s HN collection illustrates the lengths that were gone to, to appeal to early collectors as the company tried to discover a popular house style.


Title page of an early figure catalogue.

Of course by the time the Masquerade pair appeared in 1924, the great Leslie Harradine had already been supplying models to the Burslem art studios for a few years. 


A burnished gold HN636 Masquerade.

During the early 20thC there was huge interest in masked and costume balls and the latter must have inspired this pairing and other Chelsea inspired figures from a bygone age in English china manufacturing. 


Masquerade (female) HN 600.


‘Kissing’ Masqueraders HN 600 in china and HN 683 in earthenware.

Interestingly the two Doulton models’ bases fit so that the couple can kiss if the owner so wishes. They appear in this 1920’s figure catalogue titled Personalities and Porcelain along with a group of other early figures. Also of interest to note is that HN683 and HN 637 the last versions of each were actually made in earthenware rather than china like the other versions.


Masquerade HN 599 & 636.

Typical of Doulton’s studios they also experimented with this pair and a handful of other figures, producing examples in burnished gold with ivory face and hand details, imitating gold/bronze and Ivory figurative sculptures from the art nouveau era. 

Royal Doulton’s Newhaven Fishwife.

The Royal Doulton figure Newhaven Fishwife HN 1480 is like so many of their period street sellers and character figures, based closely on real life. The Scottish fishwives of Newhaven had a reputation for their beauty and industry. They were hard-bargainers though, and all the fishermen of the Firth of Forth in Edinburgh, Scotland, brought their catches to Newhaven for the fishwives to sell in Edinburgh city. 
  
Just like the Doulton figure, the fishwives of Newhaven wore distinctive costumes of layers of colourfully striped petticoats with a muslin cap or other similar headdress, together with a scarf, the tassels of which you can make out in the picture and also around the neck of the figure itself. Their fish, including haddock and herring, were carried on their backs in creels, again just like the figure.  

  
The Newhaven Fishwife although introduced in the 1930s, was not a Leslie Harradine figure, but a model by Harry Fenton, more famously associated today with Doulton’s Character Jugs. She is recorded as having been produced between 1931-37, however, her scarcity reinforces the reality that many figures were made to order rather than being readily available. 

  
 

Royal Doulton’s  Nursery Rhymes Series L – a look back…

 
 A smart child’s breakfast set, once popular christening presents. 

Classic nursery rhymes have long provided much inspiration for Doulton’s designers and just like many Seriesware designs the L range was influenced by another artist, Ann Anderson.

  Introduced in 1916 there were 12 different designs produced featuring classic characters such as Little Tommy Tucker, the Queen of Hearts and This Little Pig. 

  
A variation of the boxed set above.

Typically produced in bone china the precise date of withdrawal is unknown, although the outbreak of WWII is given as it is with so many of Doulton’s different lines. The bases of items with these designs can carry H or D numbers for this series ware pattern.

  
Beaker with silver plated handle and original retailer’s box.

As with so many series ware designs hunting down items provides a great challenge and a collection of them makes a great display.

Royal Doulton Spotlight: the Limited Edition “Pied Piper Jug” (1934).

We are all no doubt familiar with the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin from our own childhoods, the hero who rid the town of its rat problem but who then turned on the town after its residents refused to pay him the agreed sum for his services. 

  
Doulton’s range of limited edition loving cups and jugs are avidly collected around the world and their enduring popularity can be attributed to the fantastic detail and riot of colour present on each of the 30 plus examples first produced in 1930. 

  
Originally the brain child of Charles Noke, he was often assisted by another of Doulton’s most skilled craftsmen, Harry Fenton and both of their signatures can be found on their work.

Doulton’s Pied Piper Jug was produced in a limited edition of 600 pieces in 1934 and designed by both Noke and Fenton. Measuring 10″ it depicts the two aspects of the famous take on each side: the removal of the rats watched over by the mayor and then the children leaving after the town’s refusal to pay the Piper his fee. As was typical of these limited edition pieces the base is also of great interest; here there is a version of the tale printed for collectors.

  
Of course the story is actually based on legend although it’s precise origins are not clear. Certainly the town in Germany, Hamelin, exists and plays upon this famous legend. A stained glass window once in the town and dating to 1330 depicted the tale and it is well documented in the Luneburg manuscript (c.1440-50) where the story is recounted in detail.

  
Whether you collect just these limited edition jugs or Royal Doulton generally, this piece will sit perfectly with a collection of similar jugs and there are also a plethora of other Pied Piper related Doulton items from Character Jugs to figures to collect, to make an eye-catching display! 

  

Mirror, mirror …who is the fairest Doulton lady of them all? 

Whilst bouquets of splendid flowers, fans and ermine muffs may be what Doulton ladies are typically modelled holding, mirrors too can be found being held aloft by a small selection of figures both old and new.

 Lady Pamela HN 2718.


Camille HN 1586(L) and 1648(R).

Perhaps contrary to traditional views of what is virtuous and what is not, a figure admiring her own beauty was possibly not considered a positive trait and maybe the reason why there are so few ladies holding mirrors?


A prototype from 1940. Another variation of this lady has appeared holding a mask instead of the mirror.

Alternatively, perhaps it is the precariousness of having an arm stretched out holding a mirror that explains why so few ladies have appeared holding mirrors. Certainly when one looks at Harradine’s the Mirror you can see how fragile that little hand help mirror is!


The Mirror HN1852.

Whatever the reason it is something of a shame as the selection shown illustrate how wonderfully stylish these ladies are.