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Duchess of Edinburgh: C.1029-1928

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Object information

Current Location: Gallery 27 (Glaisher)


Duchess of Edinburgh


Production: Sampson Smith (Perhaps)




White earthenware, moulded in three parts and lead-glazed. Painted with black, brown, red, green, blue, purple and flesh-pink enamels, and gilt.

The oval base is inscribed 'quote Duchess of Edinburgh' in gilt script. The Duchess stands on rough ground, her left hand at her waist, her right holding a purse. The figure is mainly white, with features picked out in enamels and gilt. She wears a crown and veil, a necklace, a green sash and gold star, and a dress with full sleeves and a scoop neck edged in gilt. Her three tier flounced skirt is decorated with finely painted green and purple flowers and edged in red, a black shoe shows from under its hem. Her purse is decorated with a tiny pattern in blue. Her hair is brown, her eyes blue, and her brown eyebrows fine painted. The underside is concave and glazed. The back is moulded but undecorated, with a vent hole 14.5cm from the bottom.


History note: London Opinion Curio Club, Regent St, London. Bought on 15 May 1909 for 30/- (thirty shillings) by Dr Glaisher, Trinity College, Cambridge.

Legal notes

Dr J.W.L. Glaisher Bequest

Measurements and weight

Depth: 14.5 cm
Depth: 5.75 in
Height: 44.5 cm
Height: 17.5 in
Width: 17.8 cm
Width: 7 in

Acquisition and important dates

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


19th Century, Mid#
Victoria I
Production date: circa AD 1874


Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna, Duchess of Edinburgh (1853-1900) was the only daughter of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. She married Queen Victoria’s second son, Prince Alfred, in 1874 at the Winter Palace, St Petersburg. A companion figure of Prince Alfred exists, though it is not in the Fitzwilliam collection. As Marie wears a veil, it is likely that the pair of figures was made to commemorate the royal wedding in 1874.

Rackham (1935) lists this figure as of a type made chiefly by Sampson Smith at Longton, a factory listed in contemporary directories as a ‘manufacturer of figures in great variety’, which began around 1851. The firm continued to make figures in quantity into the early part of the twentieth century, and again from 1948 when a number of original moulds were found on site. Sampson Smith figures were rarely marked, and there were many other manufacturers of figures working in Staffordshire at this time. However, this figure shares a number of features with figures known to come from the factory. It is simply moulded in three parts; it has a plain oval base; and the figure stands on rough ground supported by a wall. Moreover, as Pugh (1970) has noted, its size, style, base and titling are very similar to those of certain other 17 to18 inch figures, notably the Duke of Edinburgh (pair to the Duchess), Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales, and strongly resemble a 17 in mould for Dwight Lyman Moody found at the Samson Smith factory in 1948. Thus, it seems likely that this is a Sampson Smith figure.

School or Style


People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Decoration composed of enamels ( black, brown, red, green, blue, purple and flesh-pink) gold

Materials used in production

White earthenware

Techniques used in production

Press moulding : White earthenware, moulded in three parts and lead-glazed. Painted with black, brown, red, green, blue, purple and flesh-pink enamels, and gilt. The underside is concave and glazed. The back is moulded but undecorated, with a vent hole 14.5cm from the bottom.

Inscription or legends present

Inscription present: inscribed ‘Duchess of Edinburgh’ in gilt script

  • Text: Duchess of Edinburgh
  • Location: Front of base
  • Method of creation: Painting
  • Type: Title

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.1029-1928
Primary reference Number: 71192
Old object number: 2991
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Monday 18 December 2023 Last processed: Monday 18 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

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

Citation for print

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Duchess of Edinburgh" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-06-20 23:42:42

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{{cite web|url= |title=Duchess of Edinburgh |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2024-06-20 23:42:42|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

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