Skip to main content

Spill vase with two cows: C.947B-1928

An image of Figure group

Terms of use

These images are provided for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons License (BY-NC-ND). To license a high resolution version, please contact our image library who will discuss fees, terms and waivers.

Download this image

Creative commons explained - what it means, how you can use our's and other people's content.

Alternative views

Object information

Current Location: In storage


Spill vase with two cows


Factory: Unidentified factory
Pottery: John Walton (Possibly)




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

Earthenware figure group with two cows, one on either side of a tall hollow tree trunk. The tops of the trunk and its two branches are open, forming the spill vase. In the hollow of the tree, a boy sits playing a pipe, his right leg crossed over his left, some music on his lap and his hat hung beside him on the trunk. A milkmaid on a three-legged stool milks the left-hand cow and a herd leans against the other. Two white birds sit at the boy’s feet. Behind each cow is a leafy tree with flowers. The scene is painted in bright coloured enamels: the trunks brown with red-brown interior striped with cream; the leaves green with blue and red flowers; the cows brown and white; the maid in flowered dress and white cap; the herd in pale green coat and black hat; and the boy in striped shirt and brown jacket. It stands on a wide mounded base which is painted green and brown and decorated with applied leaves and flowers, as if fallen from the bocage, and scattered green clumps. The back is flattened, but fully shaped and decorated. The underside of the base is recessed slightly under each cow and glazed inside a narrow foot-rim.


History note: Captain Reynolds, Tiptree, Kelvedon, Essex. Collection sold to Messrs Gill and Reigate. Bought by Mr Stoner, London, from whom purchased in 1910 by Dr J.W.L. Glaisher, Trinity College, Cambridge. Dr Glaisher paid £20 for the two spill vases, as part of a purchase of 35 figures and figure groups.

Legal notes

Dr. J.W.L. Glaisher Bequest, 1928

Measurements and weight

Height: 25.4 cm
Width: 37.5 cm

Place(s) associated

  • Burslem ⪼ Staffordshire ⪼ England

Acquisition and important dates

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


19th Century, Early#
Circa 1810 CE - Circa 1825 CE


Earthenware figure groups were popular from around 1810, although the earliest examples date from nearly a century before. A cheaper alternative to porcelain figures, they were generally produced by small potteries and very few are marked. Classical or literary subjects might be copied from porcelain examples, but scenes from everyday life and topical events were also increasingly popular. These early groups are often complex, with modelled and moulded parts and applied decoration; the backs, though flat, are decorated. As demand increased, processes were streamlined to allow cheaper mass production and by the mid 1830s the earlier methods had largely given way to three-part press-moulding.

Spill vases were made to hold tightly rolled scraps of newspaper used to light the fire, as matches were expensive.

This is one of two similarly styled spill vases in the Fitzwilliam collection, one with deer and the other with cows. Similar features such as the overlapping oak leaf bocage, the modelling of the trunk and the boy piper and the construction of the base suggest they may have been made by the same pottery. According to Rackham, this might be John Walton of Burslem, who is often associated with bocage figure groups. However we now know that several potters made figure groups in this style, often copying designs and other features.

Components of the work

Decoration composed of lead-glaze enamel

Materials used in production

white Earthenware

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.947B-1928
Primary reference Number: 76428
Old object number: 3215
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Wednesday 15 July 2020 Last processed: Thursday 7 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) "Spill vase with two cows" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-06-16 14:58:35

Citation for Wikipedia

To cite this record on Wikipedia you can use this code snippet:

{{cite web|url= |title=Spill vase with two cows |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2024-06-16 14:58:35|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

API call for this record

To call these data via our API (remember this needs to be authenticated) you can use this code snippet:

Bootstrap HTML code for reuse

To use this as a simple code embed, copy this string:

<div class="text-center">
    <figure class="figure">
        <img src=""
        alt="Spill vase with two cows"
        class="img-fluid" />
        <figcaption class="figure-caption text-info">Spill vase with two cows</figcaption>

Sign up for updates

Updates about future exhibitions and displays, family activities, virtual events & news. You'll be the first to know...