Elizabethan tomb effigies of Sir Richard Lee (died 1591) and his wife in St Mary's Church, Acton Burnell, Shropshire
Modern Marzanna effigy, Poland

An effigy is a representation of a person, especially in the form of sculpture or some other three-dimensional form.

The term is usually associated with full-length figures of a deceased person depicted in stone or wood on church monuments. These most often lie supine with hands together in prayer, but may also be recumbent, kneeling in prayer or even standing. Effigies may also be (half) demi-figures and the term is occasionally used to refer to busts.

An effigy can also be a doll burned in order to dispel undesired spirits or to advocate against a person. The burning is meant as a sign of the participants' shared intent to banish the represented element from their lives. The best known British example is the burning of an effigy made of straw and/or old clothing depicting the 17th century Catholic conspirator, Guy Fawkes. In the past, criminals sentenced to death in absentia might be officially executed "in effigy" as a symbolic act.[1]

Political effigies serve a broadly similar purpose on political demonstrations or annual community rituals such as that held in Lewes, on the south coast of England. In Lewes, models of important or unpopular figures in current affairs are burned on Bonfire Night, formerly alongside an effigy of the Pope.

The word comes from the Latin, and originally was used in the plural only—even a single image was "the effigies of ...". The word occurs in Shakespeare's As You Like It of 1600 (II, vii, 193), though it first appears in 1539. "In effigie" was probably understood as a Latin phrase until the 18th century.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b OED; "Effigy"

External links