In the early 1800's, Staffordshire potters were producing figurines that mocked the centuries-old requirement that every family give ten percent of their produce to the Church of England; the figurines came to be named "The Tithe Pig." This large figurine is a reproduction of an early one, made we think in the 1980's. The originals that are often priced over $1000* are exquisite. This modern copy would never be confused with the antique one--the details are greatly simplified and a wash of thin brown glaze has been applied to "age" the piece--but it is still a charming decoration. (The presence of this brown "antiquing" glaze is a good way to tell if the figurine is a copy---the originals never had any--they didn't need to.) This pottery piece has a small firing hole on the bottom, indicating it was made like the old ones, unlike the large holes on many slip-cast reproductions.
The origin of "The Tithe Pig" was an engraving by Louis Peter Bollard (in our last photo) that satirized the tithing practice, which was very hard on the poor. The farmer and his wife are turning over ten percent of their produce, including a pig, to the vicar. The wife is sarcastically telling the vicar he must take their tenth child if he wants their pig:
The Parson comes, the Pig he Claims, And the good Wife with Taunts inflames, But she quite arch bow’d low & Smil’d, Kept back the Pig and held the Child The Priest look’s warm, the Wife look’d big, Zounds Sir! quoth She, no Child, no Pig.
The group is 9 inches tall to the top of the vicar's hat, on a base 6 3/4 inches long and 3 inches front to back. It weighs 2 pounds 9 ounces and is hand painted with touches of gilt. The figurine is in very good condition; we found no cracks or chips and no paint loss. It's a nice decorative figurine for those of us who can't break the bank for the original antique.
* Here is an original, for sale (for $1841) at the time we wrote this description: