Ceramic figurine of Eliza Vestris

Ceramic figurine of Eliza Vestris

This ceramic figurine is of Eliza Vestris, also known as Madame Vestris. She was famous in the 1820s for playing male roles which revealed her shapely legs. A court case of the time shows just how excited people got about her legs. Mr Papera, an Italian plaster worker, made casts of Eliza's legs for one of her many wealthy gentleman-admirers. These were 'to a little above the knee, and including the foot'. One of his apprentices stole some to sell for a profit, but was arrested. At his trial, Mr Papera told the court 'such a leg was always certain to fetch a high price in the market and besides, the legs of this lady were in very great demand'. Since most people couldn't get hold of a model of Vestris's legs, they made do with a print or a ceramic figure like this one. These figurines are quite valuable to collectors today. However, in their time they were made fairly cheaply and sold at reasonable prices to middle-class buyers.