Martha Washington German Bisque Figurine

Victorian Period
Item number: PYH 4591

Thousands of bisque (unglazed) porcelain figurines were exported from Germany to America during the late Victorian period. This unusual one of Martha Washington was made there, possibly for the Centennial Celebration of George Washington's inauguration in 1889. It's a hollow molded, flat-back figurine, hand painted with an oval base. The term 'flat-back' refers to the common practical technique of leaving the back side of the figure with few details and unpainted, since the back was not seen when it was on a shelf, mantel or in a cabinet.

Mrs. Washington's facial features are nicely painted, although she does appear to be rolling her eyes. (Really, George, must we move?) She is shown wearing a ruffled mob-cap covering her hair; an open front gown with an under-panel tinted pale green over a pleated petticoat; a gold cord tied in a bow at the waist (buttons were not in fashion then) and a lacy shawl to finish her ensemble. Her name is molded on the front of the base, with a swipe of rusty orange over it to emphasize the letters.

The figurine measures 8 1/2 inches tall on a base about 1 inch by 2 3/8 inches. Other than some chipping along the bottom edge, which is not obtrusive, Mrs. Washington is in good condition, with no cracks or other chips and the paint, which is not protected by a glaze, still quite unfaded.

On the reverse of the figure are two numbers: a raised 3 and an incised 3571, both of which have to do with mold numbers, etc., significant to the pottery that made it. It is not signed or marked further. Painting these figurines was a job often given to children, since they were made to be sold inexpensively, so the painting is often rather simplistic. The result is not fine china, but rather charming cottage décor.

Note: There is a matching George Washington figurine somewhere; it would be lovely if they were reunited someday.


PYH 4591