In the 1750s, English potteries such as Chelsea, Derby and Bow began producing whimsical and allegorical figures for use in elaborate centerpieces then popular among the English and colonial elite. Placed in sugar-fabricated gardens and landscapes, lit by candles, and surrounded by glistening fruits and desserts, the doll-like porcelains delighted diners. These four figures arrived in the first shipment of goods George and Martha Washington received following their marriage in January 1759. George Washington did not request their purchase, but his London agents, Robert Cary & Company, clearly thought the colorful, Rococo-styled figures were a wise addition to the well-to-do newlyweds' table.
Euterpe, the patron of tragedy or flute playing, is one of the nine Muses in Greek mythology.
Figure of a woman seated with her right arm resting on a pedestal, her head turned to the viewer's left. She holds a flute in her left hand, a mandolin and reed instruments lie on the ground at her feet. A gilded ornament is in her hair above her forehead, and she wears a white sprigged bodice trimmed in yellow and pink with a yellow skirt.
Porcelain (soft-paste), enamel, gilt
Overall: 6 1/4 in. × 4 1/4 in. × 3 in. (15.88 cm × 10.8 cm × 7.62 cm)
Purchased with funds donated by the Melissa and David Dvorak Family, 2004
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