Theatrical Thrillers

A real showstopper of a lot features in our 19th & 20th Century Design auction.



A rare, complete set of five theatrical figures by Susan Parkinson for Briglin Pottery. Makers of domestic earthenware, Briglin Pottery, issued the set in 1959, a year after they decided to revive the Staffordshire tradition of pottery figures of performers.

Lot 103 comprises Paul Robeson as Othello, model No.6, Sir John Gielgud as Hamlet, No.41, Sir Laurence Olivier as Henry V, No.84, Dame Margot Fonteyn as Ondine, No.74 and Vivien Leigh as Cleopatra, No.25, each figure painted in blue-black, with incised marks and a hand painted description inside each base.



The actor Herbert Lom, the partner of Briglin's founder Brigitte Goldsmith, contacted Paul Robeson, Sir Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Sir John Gielgud, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Maria Callas and Alec Guinness, who all agreed to feature. Lom wrote a leaflet advertising the proposed edition of 100 figures of seven personalities, which featured quotes from the subjects who all expressed delight at their inclusion.

Since Briglin's earthenware proved unsuitable, Lom commissioned Richard Parkinson to design and make the figures at his pottery, using continental-type porcelain, fired at high temperatures and decorated in green and black. The slip-cast figures proved tricky; the moulds had to be made in several pieces and most of them, except Paul Robeson and Vivien Leigh, had to be tall and thin, very different in style to the rest of Parkinson's pottery. After Robeson, the fifth model, the Parkinsons realised their charge of £2 a figure was unrealistic. Since Lom refused to raise the price, the project was terminated and only about six figures of Robeson were made, model No. 6 of which is included within the set up for auction at McTear's. In 1959, however, the set featured in London's Design Centre where Briglin sold them for 10 guineas each, and 40 guineas a set. The Duke of Edinburgh and Charlton Heston each bought a set.



As per the vendor, the five figurines of Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Vivien Leigh and Paul Robeson were bought directly from Susan Parkinson in 1959 by their uncle, Norman Melburn, and have remained in the family since. The vendor's uncle was a friend and supporter of the Briglin Pottery founder, Brigitte Goldsmith and her partner, Herbert Lom, who wanted to revive the Staffordshire tradition of making pottery figures of outstanding theatrical personalities of the day.

The complete set of five figures has never been sold together before as one lot at auction and we are thrilled to offer this extremely desirable group of figures. Join us for this highly anticipated auction on 28 February, with bidding available online, in person and over the phone. 



For a complimentary, no-obligation valuation, visit our Glasgow Galleries or contact a specialist on 0141 810 2880 or

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