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The Roman Charity: C.970-1928

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Object information

Current Location: In storage


The Roman Charity


Unidentified Pottery




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

Group representing a girl feeding a prisoner from her breast. The man is naked except for a blue and yellow loin-cloth, his ankles and wrists shackled; he sits on a rocky green brown and grey mound in front of a double-turreted building flanked by trees. The woman, much smaller, wears a red dress with a flower pattern and her grey hair in a top-knot. The base is oblong, with four feet, painted to match the mound above and inscribed ‘GRECIAN &’,
‘DAUGHTER’, impressed into two almond-shaped, applied labels. The building turrets form a double spill-vase. The back is almost flat, though the turrets are described, and painted. The underside of the base is recessed and flat.


History note: Bought from Mr Stoner, London, on February 21, 1912, with another figure group, for £9.10s (nine pounds ten shillings) the two, by Dr Glaisher, FRS, Trinity College, Cambridge

Legal notes

Dr J. W. L. Glaisher Bequest

Measurements and weight

Height: 24.5 cm
Width: 18 cm

Acquisition and important dates

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


19th Century, first half#
Circa 1825 - Circa 1835


Earthenware figure groups were popular from around 1810, although the earliest examples date from nearly a century earlier. A cheaper alternative to porcelain figures, they were often produced by small potteries; very few are marked. Classical or literary subjects were frequently copied from porcelain examples, but potters increasingly turned to scenes from everyday life and topical events. These early figure groups are often complex, including modelled and moulded parts and applied decoration; the backs, though flat, are decorated; bocage (stylised foliage) is common on groups from c.1810-20. However, as demand increased, processes were streamlined to allow mass production and by c.1835 the earlier, relatively costly, methods had largely given way to three-part press-moulding.

Table groups, standing on four or six short legs, were made from c.1825-35; they have similar features, so were probably made by just a few makers. They have in the past been attributed to Obadaiah Sherratt of Burlem, but without clear evidence; they were probably made by a number of figure makers.

The Roman Charity story, of Pero who secretly breastfeeds her imprisoned father, Cimon, is recorded in ancient history and represents both. The scene, which echoes the myth of Juno feeding of the adult Hercules, was depicted by Rubens, Caravaggio and later artists. It symbolises honour and filial piety.

People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Decoration composed of lead-glaze enamel

Materials used in production


Inscription or legends present

  • Text: ‘GRECIAN &’,‘DAUGHTER’
  • Location: On front of base
  • Method of creation: Impressed into two almond-shaped, applied labels
  • Type: Label

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.970-1928
Primary reference Number: 76472
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Wednesday 15 July 2020 Last processed: Wednesday 13 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) "The Roman Charity" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-07-13 10:58:25

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{{cite web|url= |title=The Roman Charity |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2024-07-13 10:58:25|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

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