Staffordshire Figurine collection
The Staffordshire Figurine Collection comprises three polychrome enamelled ceramic figurines of: Captain Cook seated at a small table; William Smith O'Brien seated and in chains; and O'Brien standing and dressed as a convict. Each figure dates from the late 1840s and shows evidence of minor restoration. The collection is in good condition.
William Smith O'Brien is perhaps the best remembered of the Young Ireland rebel leaders. A member of the aristocratic O'Brien family, direct descendants of Ireland's great High King Brian Boru, he initially refused to give his word not to escape in Tasmania and was confined, first to Maria Island and later to Port Arthur. His defiant stance was driven by the belief that to remain a prisoner would keep the cause of Ireland more directly in front of world opinion. In November 1850, however, he gave his parole and four years later received a 'conditional pardon'. This allowed him to return to Europe, but not Ireland.
The production of Staffordshire ceramic figures reached its peak during the Victorian era, flourishing during the period 1840-1880. The relatively inexpensive, simply made porcelain facsimiles of the famous or notorious were produced in response to the current events of the day, making Staffordshire figures excellent examples of popular culture.