A Spellbinding Character

In Museum Month, it is interesting to reflect how the remarkable Wiener museum came about. Back in 1965, Arthur Wiener was a young college graduate and he traveled to London armed with Frommer’s seminal Europe on $5 a day. He blew his daily budget on a Royal Doulton character jug of Merlin, the magician, which caught his attention in a china shop window because of the Star of David on the handle.

Merlin certainly cast a spell on Arthur as he began collecting Royal Doulton character jugs from specialist dealers at antique shows in the USA. Doulton character jugs depict the head and shoulders of the subject and evolved from the traditional toby jug, which features the entire body of the subject. The collection was launched in 1934 and over the years has included a host of personalities from literature and movie history. Winston Churchill was the first living person to be portrayed as a character jug in 1940 during the Battle of Britain. The Wiener collection includes many rare prototype jugs which never went into production.

As well as character jugs, Arthur began collecting Royal Doulton figurines and art pottery. Then, having created the biggest Royal Doulton collection in the world, he branched out into many other types of ceramic and glass art which are now on display at WMODA.