Skip to main content

John Liston as Van Dunder: C.991-1928

An image of Figure

Terms of use

These images are provided for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons License (BY-NC-ND). To license a high resolution version, please contact our image library who will discuss fees, terms and waivers.

Download this image

Creative commons explained - what it means, how you can use our's and other people's content.

Alternative views

Object information

Current Location: In storage


John Liston as Van Dunder


Production: Enoch Wood (Probably)




Earthenware figure, moulded and modelled, lead glazed and painted with polychrome enamels.

Earthenware figure of the actor John Liston in character, He wears a black conical hat with a red band over a lawyer’s wig; his clothes are black, with a white bow at the neck, a red belt and black shoes with red rosettes. He holds a scroll in both hands (broken off) and his head is turned to the left, as if in proclamation. He stands against a short, square marbled post, on a square white base which carried the transferred inscription: ‘Read it indeed : that’s very easily said, read it! The back is fully modeled and painted. The underside of the base is recessed and glazed.


History note: From the collection of Percy Fitzgerald Esq., FSA of 37 St George’s Road, S.W.. Bought at Christie’s on 24 January 1908, lot 14, by Mr Thomas Sutton of Eastbourne for Dr J.W.L. Glaisher, Trinity College, Cambridge. This and a similar but differently-coloured figure were bought for £6.6s (six pound six shillings).

Legal notes

Dr J. W. L. Glaisher Bequest

Measurements and weight

Base: 6 cm
Height: 18.5 cm

Place(s) associated

  • Burslem ⪼ Staffordshire ⪼ England

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1928-12-07) by Glaisher, J. W. L., Dr


Second quarter of 19th century
Circa 1830 - Circa 1840


John Liston (1776-1846) was a well known comic actor, who performed in London theatres from c.1805-1837. He appeared as van Dunder in John Poole’s comedy ‘ ‘Twould Puzzle a Conjurer’, which opened at the Haymarket Theatre, London, on 11 September 1824. The source for this figure was a coloured lithograph of Liston in nine of his best known roles, originally published in 1826. Six of the other roles are also found in pottery figures.

Pearlware figures decorated with enamels were in production by 1780. They were generally made at smaller potteries and are rarely marked. A cheaper alternative to porcelain figures, they drew on a variety of 3-D sources, including sculpture and porcelain figures. Classical, biblical, mythological and literary subjects were popular, as were animals and representations of rural life, seasons and trades. From the early 19th Century, scenes from everyday life and topical events were also common. These early figures are moulded, perhaps with moulded or modelled parts added, the bases often formed separately. After around 1810-1820, figures are often more vibrantly coloured. But by c.1835, these early methods had largely given way to three-part press-moulding, enabling cheaper production of figures for a growing market.

Very similar figures with this colouring and base include examples marked by Enoch Wood (1759-1840) of Burslem. Others, with similar modelling but different colours and base (including Fitzwilliam, C.990-1928) are probably by another maker. It was not uncommon for the Staffordshire potters to borrow designs from each other and c.1830 a similar 14cm figurine was also made by Robert Bloor & Co of Derby.

People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Decoration composed of enamels lead-glaze

Materials used in production

White earthenware

Techniques used in production

Moulding : Earthenware, moulded and modelled, lead glazed and painted with enamels.

Inscription or legends present

  • Type: No visible mark
  • Text:
  • Location: Underside of base
  • Method of creation: Rectangular paper label handpainted in black ink
  • Type: Label

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.991-1928
Primary reference Number: 76502
Old object number: 2899
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Friday 19 February 2021 Last processed: Tuesday 31 January 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

Citation for print

This record can be cited in the Harvard Bibliographic style using the text below:

The Fitzwilliam Museum (2023) "John Liston as Van Dunder" Web page available at: Accessed: 2023-02-08 00:34:37

Citation for Wikipedia

To cite this record on Wikipedia you can use this code snippet:

{{cite web|url= |title=John Liston as Van Dunder |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2023-02-08 00:34:37|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

API call for this record

To call these data via our API (remember this needs to be authenticated) you can use this code snippet:

Bootstrap HTML code for reuse

To use this as a simple code embed, copy this string:

<div class="text-center">
    <figure class="figure">
        <img src=""
        alt="John Liston as Van Dunder"
        class="img-fluid" />
        <figcaption class="figure-caption text-info">John Liston as Van Dunder</figcaption>

Please enter your name as you would like to be addressed
Please enter your email address
The object accession number - this is prefilled
Please enter your query with as much detail as possible

More objects and works of art you might like

John Liston (1776-1846) as Van Dunder

Accession Number: C.990-1928

Anthony van Dyck

Accession Number: P.2753-R

Portrait of Sir John van Hatten

Accession Number: PD.114-1992

Suggested products from Curating Cambridge

You might be interested in this...

Sign up for updates

Updates about future exhibitions and displays, family activities, virtual events & news. You'll be the first to know...