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Tragedy: C.937-1928

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Object information

Current Location: In storage




Production: Unidentified factory




Earthenware figure, moulded and modelled, pearl-ware glazed and painted with polychrome enamels.

Staffordshire figure representing Tragedy, standing on an oval base. A woman stands beside a tombstone: she holds a dagger in her right hand and a cup in her left. She wears a long, flowing, sleeveless, purple gown and a white cloak draped over her right shoulder. The tombstone is yellow and inscribed ‘Memento’ [for ‘memento mori’]. The base is a pointed oval mound, painted in green, blue and red and with ‘TRAGEDY’ inscribed in black impressed letters at the front. The back of the figure is flattened, but fully moulded and painted. The underside is recessed and glazed, with a central vent hole.


History note: Sotheby’s, 12 March 1909, lot no. 187; bought for £1.7s 0d. (one pound seven shillings) by Mr S. Fenton for Dr J.W.L. Glaisher, Trinity College, Cambridge.

Legal notes

Dr J.W.L.Glaisher Bequest, 1928

Measurements and weight

Height: 15.2 cm
Width: 10 cm

Acquisition and important dates

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


19th Century, Early#
George III
Circa 1810 - Circa 1820


Pearlware figures decorated with enamels were in production by 1780, though the bright coloured enamels on these figures indicates an early 19th Century date. They were generally made at smaller potteries and are rarely marked. A cheaper alternative to porcelain figures, they drew on a variety of sources, including sculpture and porcelain figures. Classical, biblical, mythological and literary subjects were popular, as were animals and representations of rural life, seasons and trades. Here the bodies are simple 3-part moulds, with a few hand-modelled parts applied.

This is one of a pair of female figures representing Comedy and Tragedy, personifications which date from ancient Greece. The Fitzwilliam collection holds three such earthenware figures, a pair (C.936A-1928 and C.936B-1928) and Tragedy (C.937-1928). Similarities in moulding and colours suggest that these may have come from the same maker.

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 with applied modelled parts, lead glazed and painted with enamels.

Inscription or legends present

Inscription present: illegible -possible signature?

  • Location: Bottom LHC of tombstone
  • Method of creation: Painted inscription
  • Type: Mark
  • Text: No 3013. Staffordshire figure representing Tragedy.b. at Sotheby's March 12. 1909.
  • Location: Underside of base
  • Method of creation: Rectangular black label hand written in black ink
  • Type: Label

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.937-1928
Primary reference Number: 76411
Old object number: 3013
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Friday 15 December 2023 Last processed: Friday 15 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

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

Citation for print

This record can be cited in the Harvard Bibliographic style using the text below:

The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Tragedy" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-07-23 23:01:49

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{{cite web|url= |title=Tragedy |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2024-07-23 23:01:49|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

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