Standing on a fringed stool, the girl wears a check skirt, dark blue blouse and a red sash. On her head, a tilted cockade hat. She has button eyes. She holds out food to a parrot that is perched on a clock face surrounded by grapes and vine leaves. A slightly deranged-looking Staffordshire dog rolls its eyes in the foreground. The time is forever 11:17.



Figure of girl with clock face, parrot and Staffordshire dog

I pounced on this “flatback” figure in a Devon charity shop. It is not a thing of outstanding beauty. The under-glaze painting is crude, the girl’s nose is slightly damaged, and the whole thing might be what one antique shop I noticed calls “faux-Staffordshire.”


The figure, however, speaks to me of several relevancies to my research, in which I explore the meanings of both parrots and Staffordshire dogs . The grapes tell of a wish for the exotic. The non-clock speaks of poverty, the desire for a real timepiece assuaged by the purchase of a cheap ornament that possesses the idea of a clock. The whole object also reminds me of how colourful nineteenth-century mantelpieces would have been.