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The Vicar and Moses: C.916-1928

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Object information

Current Location: In storage


The Vicar and Moses


Production: Unidentified factory




Earthenware figure group, moulded and modelled, lead-glazed and painted with polychrome enamels.

Staffordshire figure group of a square double pulpit; at the top, a sleeping vicar with his head resting on his left hand; at the bottom, a speaking clerk with his left hand raised in benediction; each figure has his right hand draped over the front of his pulpit, on which rests an open bible. The vicar wears a wig and clerical dress, the clerk has brown hair and wears a brown jacket and striped waistcoat, the bibles are edged in blue. The pulpit is red brown and decorated with four small modeled angels. The back is flat but painted. The underside is flat and unglazed, with a large central vent hole.


History note: Bought from Mr Woolstan of Hyde Park Corner, Cambridge, on 4 December 1905, for 15/- (fifteen shillings), by Dr J.W.L. Glaisher, Trinity College, Cambridge.

Legal notes

Dr J. W. L. Glaisher Bequest, 1928

Measurements and weight

Height: 225 cm

Acquisition and important dates

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


19th Century, Early#
Circa 1810 - Circa 1835


Pearlware figures decorated with enamels and showing scenes from everyday life and topical events became popular in the early 19th Century. Early examples are often complex, with modelled and moulded parts and applied decoration; the backs, though flat, are decorated. However, by c.1835 these methods had largely given way to three-part press-moulding which enabled faster and cheaper production for a growing market.

The earliest Staffordshire figure groups of The Vicar and Moses were decorated with coloured glazes and made by Ralph Wood of Burslem, c. 1782-1795. Similar groups decorated in enamel colours, like this one, appeared from the early 1800s and versions were made throughout the century. Although these all feature the double pulpit and sleeping vicar, variations in quality and modelling show they were produced by different potters - the Fitzwilliam holds two such different versions – and there are also later copies in circulation. Another group with the same title was made by Enoch Wood, c.1790-1810, and shows the clerk leading the drunken vicar home. A satirical ballad, ‘The Vicar and Moses’, by George Alexander Stevens, published c. 1772, which tells of a drunken vicar assisted in his duties by his clerk, Moses, almost certainly influenced the production of both these groups. The double pulpit format here seems to be inspired by William Hogarth's engraving, ‘The Sleeping Congregation’, which shows the vicar preaching while his Clerk and the congregation sleep, first published in 1736.

People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Decoration composed of enamels lead-glaze

Materials used in production


Techniques used in production

Moulding : Earthenware, moulded and modelled, lead glazed and painted with enamels.

Inscription or legends present

  • Text: No.2551. Group of the Vicar and Moses (Staffordshire), good colour & modelling. Restored. b. in Cambridge Nov 17 1905
  • Location: Underside of base
  • Method of creation: Rectangular paper label handwritten in black ink
  • Type: Label
  • Type: No visible mark

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.916-1928
Primary reference Number: 76357
Old object number: 2551
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Friday 4 August 2023 Last processed: Tuesday 27 February 2024

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) "The Vicar and Moses" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-07-18 18:22:49

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{{cite web|url= |title=The Vicar and Moses |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2024-07-18 18:22:49|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

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