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John Bull and Bonaparte jug: C.773-1928

Object information

Current Location: In storage


John Bull and Bonaparte jug


Factory: Unidentified Staffordshire Pottery (Possibly)




White earthenware, transfer-printed over-glaze in black with text and images, and painted with green, yellow, blue, red and red-brown enamels and silver (platinum) lustre.

Ovoid body tapering slightly to a projecting foot, with a concave cylindrical neck, curved lip and curving, angular handle. Three text and image transfer-prints, over-painted with enamels, under the lip and on each side of the body. A thin band of silver lustre runs around the rim of the jug, another where the neck meets the body and a thinner band around the middle of the neck. The glaze has a slightly bluish ‘pearlware’ tinge. The underside is flat and glazed, with a raised foot-rim.

The images and text are as follows:
(i) on one side: ‘JOHN BULL and his COMPANION Challenging BONAPARTE and his relation’ below and image of the Devil behind Napoleon facing John Bull, who stands beside a lion, a ship in the background. Long inscriptions issue from their mouths.
John Bull: ‘‘Come on you Murdering Corsican [Tyrant]. This sprig of Oak will soon be your business and my Companion shall fight your Father there behind you’.
Napoleon:: ‘O vat a Terible Jean Bull me be half afraid. Much rather / make Peace now I have obtained the… To Reign is worth Ambition the in Hell’.
The Devil: ‘Fight him Dam him, Fight him Bony you’ll soon come home and you Know how impatiently we all wait for you’
(ii) On the other side: ‘One of the 71st taking a French officer prisoner in Portugal’, above an image of a French officer wearing a cocked hat giving up his purse and watch to a Scottish soldier, who wears a kilt and carries a rifle with fixed bayonet.
(iii) Under the lip: Four figures supping ale and smoking pipes whiles a fifth plays a recorder, outside an inn inscribed ‘JOLY BOAT MAN’. In the smoke of one of the pipes is written: ‘Success to trade’.


History note: Mr Hawkins, a retired shoemaker; his sale at Grantham, 1907; bought for £3.12.6 by Mr Roe, Cambridge, from whom purchased for £5 on 31 May 1907 by Dr J.W.L. Glaisher, FRS, Trinity College, Cambridge

Legal notes

Dr J.W.L. Glaisher Bequest.

Measurements and weight

Height: 17.8 cm
Width: 20.4 cm

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1928-12-07) by Glaisher, J. W. L., Dr


19th Century, Early#
George III
Circa 1809 CE - Circa 1814 CE


Dr Glaisher bought this jug, in 1907, because he thought it was a particularly good example of the many Napoleon jugs he saw - the printing and painting being delicate and fine. He had not seen the design before and was interested by the reference to the 71st regiment.

Napoleon first appears on English pottery around 1802. The shape of this jug and its images suggest it was made c. 1812-14, at the time of the Peninsular War when Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, commanded the British troops against Napoleon and the French. The 71st Highland Light Infantry fought throughout the war, which took place in Spain and Portugal from 1809 until 1814. The image of John Bull and Napoleon driven by the Devil, however, is earlier and draws on caricatures published by S W Fores in September 1803, as England faced the threat of war. The ‘One of the 71st’ image is found paired with the ‘John Bull’ image (but on a differently shaped jug) from c.1809-10, and on a jug of this shape, but with an image commemorating Wellington c.1812-13.

The lustre decoration and shape of the jug is similar to another transfer-printed jug of this period, in the collection (C.774-1928), which was made in Staffordshire. Staffordshire was the first, and remained the largest, producer of lustreware, though it was also made in other regions, notably Sunderland. Silver lustre is generally made from platinum, as real silver suffers from tarnishing.

Transfer printing was introduced to English pottery in the second half of the 18th century. Most early transfer-printed ware used the glue bat method. In this method, the design was engraved on a copper plate, which was then covered with linseed oil. The thin bat of animal glue was pressed onto the oiled plate and then applied to the ware. Once the bat was removed, the ware was dusted with powdered metallic oxide, which adhered to the oil, and fired to fix the design. This method was common for round-bodied vessels because the flexible glue bat can easily stretch round curving body.

People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work


Materials used in production

platinum Lustre
white Earthenware
Ceramic printing colour

Techniques used in production

Transfer printing
Painting overglaze

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.773-1928
Primary reference Number: 200072
Old catalogue number: 2651
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Tuesday 13 January 2015 Updated: Thursday 14 April 2022 Last processed: Friday 16 February 2024

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

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