Apollo, who is shown at the center, was one of the principle deities of the Greeks. He was the son of Zeus and Leto and the twin brother of Diana, the goddess of the hunt. Although mainly known as the god of the sun and prophecy, here he is depicted as Apollo Musagetes, the leader of the nine Muses, female divinities who presided over the arts and sciences. Each Muse is shown with her attribute. For example, Euterpe, Muse of lyric poetry, holds a paired flute, and Thalia, Muse of comedy, holds an actor's mask.
Plaques like this were sometimes framed as independent artworks, but were also inserted into wall panels, chimneypieces and mantels, and furniture. Each of the white figures was cast in clay in a separate mold and then applied to the colored plaques. In this way, each figure could be used as needed, either mounted individually on single small plaques or vases, or arranged in different groups. This interchangeability of decorative elements was a progressive factory procedure devised by Wedgwood that permitted a variety of different objects to be made easily from preexisting elements.