In the world of collectibles, few treasures are as sought-after and revered as rare, vintage pieces that encapsulate a moment in history. The Susan Parkinson For Briglin Pottery set of five theatrical figures, circa 1959, stands as a testament to both artistic excellence and cultural significance. Crafted with meticulous attention to detail and steeped in the rich tradition of the performing arts, this collection holds a unique place in the annals of pottery and theatrical memorabilia. We include details of the collection including a price guide of realised auction prices.
The genesis of these remarkable figurines dates back to 1959 when Briglin Pottery, renowned for its decorative earthenware, embarked on a visionary project. The actor Herbert Lom, the partner of Briglin’s founder Brigitte Goldsmith seeking to revive the tradition of pottery figures depicting notable performers, endeavored to immortalize seven iconic personalities of the stage and screen. Among the luminaries approached were Sir Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Sir John Gielgud, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Paul Robeson, Maria Callas, and Alec Guinness, all of whom enthusiastically consented to be featured.
Five figures were actually crafted by Susan Parkinson and all capture her unique design and the essence of theatrical brilliance. Each figure embodies a legendary character portrayed by the respective actor, evoking the magic of their performances. From Sir Laurence Olivier’s commanding portrayal of Henry V to Vivien Leigh’s captivating rendition of Cleopatra, these figurines transport admirers to the heart of the theatrical world.
The journey from concept to creation was not without its challenges. Initially intended to be made from Briglin’s earthenware, the project encountered obstacles due to the unsuitability of the material. Undeterred, Herbert Lom commissioned Richard Parkinson to design and produce the figures using continental-type porcelain, resulting in a collection of exquisite craftsmanship and enduring beauty. Despite the complexities of slip-casting and the need for specialized molds, Susan Parkinson’s deft hand brought each character to life with striking detail and artistry.
The rarity of this complete set cannot be overstated. With production halted after the creation of only six figures of Paul Robeson as Othello, acquiring a complete set has become a feat reserved for the most discerning collectors. Each figurine bears the mark of authenticity, with incised markings and hand-painted descriptions inside their bases, attesting to their provenance and historical significance.
Today, as these rare theatrical figures find their way into the hands of collectors and connoisseurs, they serve as tangible reminders of a bygone era of theatrical excellence and artistic collaboration. Each figurine is not just a piece of pottery; it is a portal to the world of Shakespearean drama, balletic grace, and cinematic mastery, preserved for posterity and cherished by all who appreciate the timeless allure of the performing arts.