Skip to content

Ceramic Mug(s) Modelled on E. J. Sullivan’s Famous Illustration

November 14, 2020

Joe Howard has sent us the following article about an interesting spin-off from the work of one well-known illustrator of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

Edmund J. Sullivan’s 1913 illustration (Fig.1.) of the mug (jug?), accompanying quatrain LXIV, is well known by Rubaiyat enthusiasts. In his book1 about Sullivan’s art, James Thorpe comments: “The Omar Khayyam Club commissioned replicas of the mug illustrating verse LXIV. These were made by Arnold Bennet’s brother (Septimus) and used at their meetings.” There is no indication as to how they were used.

Fig.1. E J Sullivan’s illustration / Fig.2 Enoch Arnold Bennett / Fig.3 Septimus Bennett
of quatrain LXIV

Enoch Arnold Bennett (1867-1931) became a member of the OK Club of London in 1912. Bennett (Fig.2.) was an internationally celebrated author who produced 42 works of fiction, 22 of non-fiction and 12 plays. On the 150th anniversary of his birth a bronze statue of him was installed outside the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Hanley, Stoke on Trent.

Fig.4. Advertisement for Septimus Bennett’s business

Septimus Bennett (1877-1926), was an artist and designer (Fig.3.) who ran a studio in Hanley, Staffordshire, where he created designs and made models (Fig.4.) of ceramic items3. He also collaborated with his brother, Arthur, by providing designs for magazine covers.

In support of the war effort Septimus relocated, without his family, to Sheffield in 1915. He was employed as a munitions worker at the Vickers’ Holme Lane works, remaining there until the end of WW1. Septimus regularly sent details of Sheffield life and of work in a munitions factory to Arthur, who used them in newspaper and magazines articles. Septimus also kept a detailed diary, which formed the basis of a book4 published in 2001.

I am surprised that I am aware of only one ceramic mug (Fig. 5.) modelled on Sullivan’s drawing. The illustration and this ceramic mug differ in that (a) the band containing the fleur-de-lis pattern near the base of Sullivan’s illustration is replaced by the last line from quatrain LXIV:  “HE’S A GOOD FELLOW AND TWILL ALL BE WELL” and (b) the base of the ceramic mug is circular. Approximate dimensions of this mug are: 20cms tall without the lid and 28cms across the handles. The lid, not including the metal

Fig.5. Mug made in the likeness of E J Sullivan’s illustration

extension at the top, adds a further ca 4cms. There are no identifying marks.

The known provenance of this mug begins with its ownership by John Henderson (1862-1938). Henderson was one of the earlier members of the OK Club, joining in 1894. He served as Honorary Secretary and Treasurer for many years5. Henderson was a regular attendee at the OK Club dinners and is listed as a member on a dinner menu the year before his death.

There is a strong link between this ceramic mug and the OK Club: the time-period is also consistent with it being one of the mugs mentioned by Thorpe. If this is indeed the case, its large size and approximately spherical shape make it unsuitable for use as a drinking vessel, for example.

Information (number produced, date of production, circumstances that led to the mugs being commissioned, how they were used by the Club etc.) about either this mug (or other copies of it) or those referred to in Thorp’s book, would be very much appreciated.

Relevant information may be added below as comments on this blog. Our thanks to Joe for sharing his research with us all.

References

  1. Thorpe, James. E. J. Sullivan, London; Art and Technics (English masters of black and white), 1948 page 31
  2. The Second Book of the Omar Khayyam Club 1910-1929, London. Printed for the members for private circulation, 1931.
  3. The Pottery Gazette and Glass Trade Review Nov.1 1922, page 1728
  4. Septimus Bennett Artist in Arms, A Sheffield Munitions Worker 1915-18, M Phillips & J Potter, The Pentland Press, 2001
  5. Henderson, John, Papers as Secretary of Omar Khayyam Club: Cambridge University Trinity College Library.
One Comment leave one →
  1. November 14, 2020 5:54 pm

    A delightful article – thank you. The photograph reminds one of Martinware and into more modern times Muggins Mugs. Any ideas of the value of such a rarity anyone ?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: