Figure of the Pietà

Figure of the Pietà

c. 1761


Joseph Willems

(Flemish, 1715-1766)


Chelsea Porcelain Factory

(Britain, London, 1745-84)

Soft-paste porcelain, painted in enamels

Height: 38.5 cm (15 3/16 in.)

Museum purchase from various donors by exchange 2019.75

Did you know?

Only three examples of this figure by the Chelsea Porcelain Factory are known to exist.


The distinctively Roman Catholic subject of Mary cradling her son, the crucified Christ, suggests this figure was probably made for one of the aristocratic English families forced to practice their Catholicism in secret during the mid-1700s. Because of the laws banning Catholic worship in England, grand houses were often modified to include private chapels or rooms in private quarters where visiting priests delivered the sacraments in defiance of the laws favoring Protestant worship. A figure of this size and type likely would have served as an important devotional focal point within that context.

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