Figure, circa 1860
Maker: Attributed to Copeland
Staffordshire, England
Greek slave after the marble sculpture by Hiram Powers

Canadian Museum of Civilization
Cat. no. A-3466
Slide no. 17941


Throughout the nineteenth century there was strong emphasis on what a Canadian writer of the period described as "ornamental matters." One commentator defined them as "articles to fill a space and gratify the eye."

Of all ceramic ornaments none achieved greater popularity than those produced in a Staffordshire-invented porcelain that came to be called parian (after marble from the Greek Island of Paros). It first came on the market in the 1840s and by the 1850s was being extensively advertised in Canada. Whole auction sales were sometimes devoted to parian. It was used primarily for busts, statuettes and groups (many of them reproducing well-known marble statuary).

A wide variety of tastes could be accommodated. Classical figures, military heroes, politicians, even athletes were all turned out in parian. It was not necessarily cheap but prices could vary considerably, according to quality and size.

Bust, circa 1875
Maker: Unmarked
Staffordshire, England
Captain Matthew Webb
famous English swimmer who died in the Niagara Whirlpool in 1883

Canadian Museum of Civilization
Cat. no. 992.29.1
Photo S97-17927, CD2004-877

In the 1870s a Staffordshire potter, probably Robert Cooke (or Cook), produced parian busts of three Canadian politicians: Sir John A. Macdonald, first prime minister of the Dominion of Canada; Alexander Mackenzie, the second prime minister; and Edward Blake, who took over leadership of the federal Liberals after Mackenzie was defeated by the Conservative leader, Macdonald, in the election of 1878.

No maker's name, just the initials "R C" impressed appear on these busts. The potter must have had an extensive trade with Canada; other parian items with his initials (sentimental groups, for example, and figures of children) were often found when the contents of some Victorian house were being sold off.

Bust, circa 1878
Maker: Attributed to Robert Cooke
Staffordshire, England
Sir John A. Macdonald,
prime minister of Canada (1867-73 and 1878-91)

Canadian Museum of Civilization
Cat. no. 980.111.70
Photo S97-17908, CD2004-877

Bust, circa 1880
Maker: Attributed to Robert Cooke
Staffordshire, England
Edward Blake,
leader of the federal Liberal Party (1880-87)

Canadian Museum of Civilization
Cat. no. 980.111.71
Photo S97-17909, CD2004-877

The rarest parian item in the Museum's collection was made not in England but in Canada itself. It is a bust, in parian-type porcelain, bearing the mark of the St. Johns Stone Chinaware Co. This Quebec pottery was the only one in nineteenth-century Canada to make any real attempt to compete with imported white-bodied wares. Its output, however, was in the tough ironstone (or stone china) copied from Staffordshire. But experiments in porcelain were made, probably after 1879, when Staffordshire-born potter Philip Pointon became manager of the pottery.

Bust, circa 1882
Maker: Stone Chinaware Co.
St. Johns, Quebec
Colonel de Charette,
French officer under whom French-Canadian Zouaves served

Canadian Museum of Civilization
Cat. no. A-4351
Slide no. 17971

The subject of this rare bust is Colonel Athanase-Charles-Marie de Charette (the Baron de Charette), a French papal Zouave under whom Canadian Zouaves served in the defence of Rome against Garibaldi's forces in 1870. In 1882 Charette made a triumphal visit to Quebec, and the bust in the Museum's collection likely dates to about this time.

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