This small figurine, which is now over 300 years old, was initially thought to represent Apollo. Research undertaken by Hampshire County Council Museums staff linked the imagery rather to early representations of fire than to a specific God, and so the figure is now named ‘Ignis’.
Thought to have been manufactured in London, the figure is of earthenware (a low fired clay) with tin glaze, and stands at only 21 cm high. It is dated 1679 and carries what is assumed to be the initials of the original owner, rather than maker, on the base.
Tin glazed wares are thought to have originated in the Middle East. However, it was the manufacture and marketing of tin glazed wares in Delft (Holland) from the mid 16th century which led to an explosion in the importation of such wares to Britain, where the techniques were soon adopted. The figure of Ignis was manufactured in London – these British tin glazed wares are known as ‘delft’ with a small ‘d’ or ‘delftwares’ to distinguish from Dutch wares.
Tin glazed figures of this kind are extremely rare. This may be partly due to the fragile nature of tin glazed ware, which is not as strong as a higher fired ware, and chips very easily.
When fired at lower temperatures, glazes do not chemically bond with the clay underneath as they would on a stoneware or a porcelain piece – making loss of the glaze from accidental knocks much more likely.