A highly unusual earthenware wall plaque with a brown treacleware (‘Rockingham’ type) glaze. The body is a pale buff / yellowish colour and there is a distinctly purple tone to the brown glaze, indicating a high manganese content.
The back is mostly unglazed and has a gauged-out hollow near the top with a double hole piercing to take a wire or string to hang the plaque.
The press-moulded design on the front shows a woman sat on a caiman (also known as a cayman - a crocodile type reptile). She holds a bow in her left hand and wears a long dress and an ornate heavy necklace. She has a scarf or cloak across her right shoulder.
There is a word above her right shoulder which has been partially cut off during manufacture, so that it appears to read as ‘AFRICA’. However close inspection reveals that the first letter is not an ‘A’ but rather an ‘M’ which has been cut and smudged during making. The ‘F’ is actually an ‘E’ which has been carelessly moulded. Therefore the complete word should read as ‘AMERICA’.
The design elements conform to the C16th book “Iconologia: or, Moral Emblems” by Caesar Ripa, first published in 1593. See the last image for reference.
This is the only example of a plaque of this kind I have ever encountered, either in person or in any of the literature. It is difficult to date it exactly or even to be sure of it’s place of origin. My best estimate is that it is probably English made c.1800-1835, however it may be much earlier or even a little later, it may also have been made in continental Europe or possibly even the USA. It really is a mystery and no doubt very rare. Further information would always be very welcome.
170 mm tall, 140mm wide.
There are several minor glaze chips around the edge but nothing serious.