As earlier remarked, the Potters of Staffordshire often drew inspiration from the roles played by popular actors and actresses of the day, their depictions of these theatrical heroes and heroines thus helping ensure that their names have not been forgotten, but remain embedded, if on occasion only as footnotes, in the history of popular culture.
George Rignold, born in Leicester in 1838 into a theatrical family, pursued a highly successful acting career in England as well as touring both the United States and Canada before eventually settling in Australia. There, he held the lease of Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sydney for seven years, playing the lead in Shakespeare’s Henry V, in which role he is here seen depicted, on the opening night.
The fine Staffordshire Portrait Figure illustrated here was potted in 1879 by Samson Smith of Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, testimony to Rignold’s popularity at that time, and serves to remind us that, even in the Victorian era, long before the birth of the cinema, still less the arrival of television, talented members of the acting profession loomed large in the public consciousness.
A good starting point for Collectors seeking to explore this subject is “The Victorian Staffordshire Figure”, by the late Anthony Oliver, himself an actor, and, in partnership with his friend Peter Sutton, for many years the proprietor of Oliver Sutton Antiques in London’s Kensington Church Street. His research into Victorian melodrama provided some of the most rewarding clues to the identification of many hitherto un-named Staffordshire figures.