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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Thr 2066

Harvard Theatre Collection of figurines


Collection of figurines relating to theatre and dance, especially ballet.


  • Creation: circa 1760-1957

Language of Materials

Collection materials may contain labels and other identification information in English, French, Italian, German, Austrian, and other languages.

Conditions Governing Access

Restricted; limited access. Please consult curatorial staff for access.


300 linear feet (approximately 350 boxes)

Contains figurines, statuettes, and sculpted scenes relating to theatre and dance, particularly ballet. Numerous figurines specifically depict nineteenth century ballerinas, and further figurines relate to Shakespearean productions. Most of the figurines and sculptures relate to known actors and dancers, as well as known productions, though this is not always the case. The majority of the figurines appear to be from the nineteenth century, though there are some dated in the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. Many are undated.

Historical Note

Originally developed in China, fine porcelain was highly prized and imported throughout Europe. In 1710 Johann Friedrich Böttger concocted his own technique for the craft and he established the Meissen porcelain factory with the support of August II, King of Poland. Many subsequent manufacturers followed. While porcelain had many uses, it became popular to create figurines in the medium as a more permanent version of popular sculptures created from sugar meant for decorating dining tables.

Popular subjects were animals, including mythological ones, fictional and allegorical characters, or real life notable figures, such as actors, dancers, and other performers. Figurines might also be made in other mediums besides porcelain, including wood, brass, terra cotta, and stoneware. Manufacturers included Volkstedt-Rudolstadt, Rosenthal, Real Fabbrica de Capodimonte, Vienna Porcelain Manufactory, Chelsea Porcelain Manufactory, Royal Doulton, and Staffordshire. Many of these figurines are now highly prized on the collectors’ market.

The Harvard Theatre Collection was founded in 1901 through the efforts of Professor George Pierce Baker, and collects documentary materials pertaining to the history of the performing arts, including theatre, dance and ballet, and opera and musical theatre, among other areas.


Collecting Guide: Meissen porcelain | Christie’s. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2021, from

Staffordshire figure | pottery. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from


Collection has been minimally processed. The materials have not been arranged.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These materials were collected by the Harvard Theatre Collection over many years, primarily from donations by Marian Hannah Winter, Allison Delarue, Edwin Binney 3rd, Babette Craven, Howard D. Rothschild , Ralph McGoun, George Marek, and George Chaffee. More detailed acquisition information available upon request.

Processing Information

Processed by Annalisa Moretti, 2021.

Harvard Theatre Collection. Harvard Theatre Collection of figurines, circa 1760-1957 (MS Thr 2066): Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard University.
August 2021
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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