A Toby Jug – also sometimes known as a Fillpot (or Philpot) – is a pottery jug in the form of a seated person, or the head of a recognizable person. Typically the seated figure is a heavy-set, jovial man holding a mug of beer in one hand and a pipe of tobacco in the other and wearing 18th-century attire: a long coat and a tricorn hat. The tricorn hat forms a pouring spout, often with a removable lid, and a handle is attached at the rear. Jugs depicting just the head and shoulders of a figure are also referred to as Toby Jugs, although these should strictly be called "Character Jugs", or face jugs, the wider historical term.
The original Toby Jug, with a brown salt glaze, was developed and popularised by Staffordshire potters in the 1760s. It is thought to be a development of similar Delft jugs that were produced in the Netherlands. Similar designs were produced by other potteries, first in Staffordshire, then around England, and eventually in other countries. The Jug in the form of a Head, Self-portrait (1899) by Paul Gauguin is an unusual example from a painter.
There are competing theories for the origin of the name "Toby Jug". One is that it was named after the intoxicated, jovial character of Sir Toby Belch in Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night. Another is that it was named after a notorious 18th-century Yorkshire drinker, Henry Elwes, who was known as "Toby Fillpot" (or Philpot), who was mentioned in an old English drinking song The Brown Jug, the popular verses of which were first published in 1761.
In the book and 1949 film Twelve O'Clock High a Toby Jug depicting Robin Hood is used as a signal in the officer's club, to discreetly warn aircrews that there will be a mission the following day, without revealing this to outsiders who might be visiting. The Toby Jug plays a pivotal role in the film.
In the 2017 film Baobhan Sith Toby Jugs are used as weapons against the Baobhan Sith, a mythical Scottish demon.
A Toby Jug, and a specialist collector and her large collection, also figure prominently in the plot of the Bravo/Netflix series Imposters.
The American Toby Jug Museum is located on Chicago Avenue in Evanston, Illinois, US.
- "History of Toby Jugs".
- http://www.meta-groove.com, Meta Groove. "American Toby Jug Museum - Toby & Character Jugs - History".
- The Art of the Old English Potter, By Louis Marc Emmanuel Solon, Forgotten Books, September, 2015, p. 245, ISBN 978-1331549598
- Dale, Jean (2003) . Royal Doulton Jugs. A Charlton Standard Catalogue (7th ed.). North York, Canada: The Charlton Press. p. vii. ISBN 0-88968-280-1.
- "My first Toby Jug! Toby Philpot - Collectors Weekly".
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