|Mason's and Other Stone China|
Though no specialist in relief molded stoneware, C. J. Mason & Co. was responsible for...
Though no specialist in relief molded stoneware, C. J. Mason & Co. was responsible for two knock-out jugs: "To-ho" (offered elsewhere on this site) with its almost free-standing hounds, and "Falstaff" with its densely detailed narrative scenes.
The "Falstaff" jug depicts two moments from the escapades of Shakespeare's popular scoundrel. From the climactic midnight scene of The Merry Wives of Windsor, we see our anti-hero decked in ridiculous antlers and flanked by two of the conniving wives who seem giddy over the approaching humiliation. The reverse takes us to Henry IV, Part One, with Falstaff running from the battleground at Shrewsbury, leaving behind the body of the noble enemy Hotspur, credit for whose death he will falsely claim.
Both scenes derive from paintings by Robert Smirke for the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery. The Mason designers expanded Smirke's vertical compositions with imaginative landscape elements, such as reclining deer in the forest and a ruined castle on the battlefiefd.
Rustic motifs finish out the design: a particularly gnarled branch handle, twig borders, and at the collar a scene of hounds running for stags. A textured band forms a sort of proscenium immediately above the scenic panels. It is centered on a bearded head and crown against an ivy sprig.
|Dimensions:||Height 9 in.; width 8 1/2 in.|
|Condition:||Fine: glazed firing nick on nose and firing separation beneath tip of nose -- both small
Credit should go to R.K. Henrywood (Relief Molded Jugs 1820-1900) for identifying Smirke a...
Credit should go to R.K. Henrywood (Relief Molded Jugs 1820-1900) for identifying Smirke as the source for the Merry Wives scene. Exploration of the artist's other Falstaff paintings--he executed several--reveals the Shrewsbury image.
The device of the bearded head with crown and oval (shield? looking glass? ring?) remains something of a puzzle. It is unlikely that it depicts Falstaff--perhaps Henry IV or Prince Hal. Looking at it one cannot help but recall the famous lines from Henry IV, Part Two: "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown."