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Portrait jug of Stanley Melbourne Bruce
, 1925-1928

by Ashtead Potters Limited, Surrey, UK and Percy Metcalfe

glazed ceramic

Stanley Bruce (1883-1967) was Prime Minister from 1923 to 1929 and Australia's High Commissioner in London from 1933 to 1945. Australian-born, English-educated Bruce was a Nationalist who governed in coalition with the newly-formed Country party, summarising his policy as 'Men, Money and Markets'. He encouraged families to emigrate from Britain and settle on the land, while he secured loans from London financiers to fund infrastructure development. In turn, the British market opened up to Australian wool, wheat and other goods. After struggling with industrial relations issues, Bruce became the only Prime Minister to lose his own seat at an election. He remained an influential mediator between Britain and Australia, and was created 1st Viscount Bruce of Melbourne in 1947. The Ashtead Pottery operated in the English village of Ashtead, Surrey, between 1923 and 1935. Set up to offer employment for disabled ex-servicemen, at the peak of its production it employed forty men to produce a broad array of wares, including commemoratives and household crockery. Percy Metcalf CVO RDI was one of several promising designers who worked for Ashtead. This jug is one of a series of four modelled by Metcalf and produced between 1925 and 1928. The other jugs depicted British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, British Attorney General Lord Hailsham, and British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. The jugs were issued in numbered limited editions - 1000 each for the British Prime Ministers and 500 each for Hailsham and Bruce. In 1927 Metcalf won the competition to design the new Irish coinage, the design committee for which was headed by WB Yeats. Metcalf's seven coins, featuring animals important in Irish life, circulated between 1928 and 1969. His later designs include the George Cross Medal and the 1939-1945 War Medal.

In January 1929 Australian statesman Richard Casey, in London, wrote to the Australian prime minister, Stanley Bruce: ‘I see that you have agreed to the Bruce Toby Jug being sold to the public. I inquired of the potters about it and got two of them. I think they have turned out very well indeed. If you want any I can get them and send them out.’ The National Portrait Gallery’s Bruce jug was spotted by the Director and Historian on a speculative autumn afternoon’s visit to a multi-vendor antique market at Exhibition Park in Canberra. As it happens, it is number 1 of the rare Bruce jugs. Its provenance is unknown, but the possibility of a Casey connection is particularly tantalising to curators.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2006
Accession number: 2006.33