‘The Doctor’, from painting to ceramic figurine: new insights in the age of Covid-19

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This paper will reflect on the discovery, in a Japanese factory storeroom, of a ceramic figurine based on The Doctor, a painting made in 1891 by Sir Luke Fildes. Commissioned by Sir Henry Tate, the painting depicts a Victorian physician tending to a sick boy while his stricken parents watch on. The ceramic figurine was commissioned for the US market and designed and mass-produced in Seto, Japan, in 1974. The paper will trace this material trajectory from canvas to ceramic, providing insights into the design and manufacturing processes. At a time when the embattled NHS is being valorised for its struggle against the pandemic, the ideal of a carer’s understated heroism embodied in the figurine seems to gain new resonance and currency. The figure is at once material evidence of global capitalism and changing design tastes, as well as a provocation to consider how the contemporary past might be remembered.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 24 Apr 2021
EventPost-Medieval Archaeology Congress 2021 - Online
Duration: 29 May 202130 May 2021


ConferencePost-Medieval Archaeology Congress 2021
Internet address


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