Figure of Demosthenes

Figure of Demosthenes

c. 1800


Enoch Wood

(British, 1759-1840)

Lead glazed earthenware

Overall: 47.5 x 39.2 x 18.6 cm (18 11/16 x 15 7/16 x 7 5/16 in.)

Bequest of Nicholas J. Velloney 2003.249

Did you know?

In Victorian times, this figure was thought to depict St. Paul preaching in Athens, but it actually portrays the Greek orator Demosthenes delivering one of his philosophical lectures.


Ceramic figures often depicted literary or mythological characters as a means of representing knowledge and intellectual refinement. As a result, they became an integral part of the decoration of most middle-class or wealthy houses in the 1700s and early 1800s. This figure depicts the Athenian orator Demosthenes (384–322 BC) delivering one of his philosophical lectures. The adjacent plinth reinforces his identity with a small image of a man lecturing the sea, something Demosthenes was known to do, while Hermes, the Greek god of eloquence, hovers above.

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