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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: Bought at Sotheby’s on 12 March 1909, lot no. 187, for £1.7s (one pound seven shillings) by Mr S. Fenton for Dr J.W.L. Glaisher, Trinity College, Cambridge. Mr Fenton’s commission was 10%. Bought with 6 other lots.

Legal notes

Dr J.W.L.Glaisher Bequest, 1928

Measurements and weight

Height: 15.2 cm
Width: 10 cm

Relative size of this object

10 cm15.2 cm What does this represent?

Relative size of this object is displayed using code inspired by Good Form and Spectacle's work on the British Museum's Waddeson Bequest website and their dimension drawer. They chose a tennis ball to represent a universally sized object, from which you could envisage the size of an object.

Acquisition and important dates

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


First quarter of 19th century
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: Wednesday 15 July 2020 Last processed: Saturday 3 June 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 (2023) "Tragedy" Web page available at: Accessed: 2023-06-04 16:24:12

Citation for Wikipedia

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{{cite web|url= |title=Tragedy |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2023-06-04 16:24:12|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

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<div class="text-center">
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        <figcaption class="figure-caption text-info">Tragedy</figcaption>

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