The figure is shown wearing turquoise robes, carrying a fan and standing on a purple-glazed fragment, supported on a silver-gilt triangular base.
It was originally one of a pair, each of which once stood within a purple-glazed bowl, its removal forming what is known as a Tantalus cup.
The 1690 Deed of Gift, or Devonshire Schedule, an inventory listing an enormous bequest from Elizabeth, Countess of Devonshire (1619-1689), to her daughter Anne, Countess of Exeter (1649-1703), records: ‘Two small turky colour figures standing upon pedistalls garnisht,’ so the figures had been removed from the bowls and mounted on the pedestals before they came to Burghley.
The figure is associated with CER0506: ‘A pair of purple Cups scollupt with three ffeet each and holes in the bottomes,’ each of which retains traces of the turquoise glaze coating the figures which once sat within them.
‘Turky’ was the rather charming version of the word turquoise, in use in the 17th Century.