Ten precious objects from the Wedgwood Collection

| 16 July 2015

As the new Wedgwood Museum opens in Stoke-on-Trent, we look at ten ceramic treasures from the Wedgwood Collection

a portrait of a man in an eighteenth century styled wig
Josiah Wedgwood, English Potter and Wedgwood founder© Courtesy Wedgwood Museum
One of the most important industrial and ceramics archives in the world returns to public display this week when the new Wedgwood Museum opens at the World of Wedgwood as part of the £34 million redevelopment of the Wedgwood Estate in Staffordshire.

The Wedgwood Collection comprises nearly 8,000 artefacts - 3,000 will go on display at the Wedgwood Museum - dating back to 1759, when Josiah Wedgwood founded the company.

At risk of being split up and sold on the open market, the Collection was saved following a successful public fundraising campaign, led by the Art Fund with major support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which raised £2.74 million in just 31 days.

The collection was acquired by the fund and gifted to the V&A, who have loaned it to the Wedgwood Museum on a long-term basis, allowing visitors to discover the story of the Wedgwood family and groundbreaking changes in ceramic design and production techniques in its natural home in the heart of the Potteries.

Take a preview of the Wedgwood Collection with these 10 iconic pieces:

Family Portrait by George Stubbs

a semi-formal outdoor portrait of family group with younger member on horses and and small trolley and the two parents seated underneath a tree
Family Portrait by George Stubbs, 1780 (20,02)© Courtesy Wedgwood Museum / Culture24
This conversation piece shows the Wedgwood family in the park of Etruria Hall. It is painted in oils on a wood panel by George Stubbs, renowned as the period’s finest British horse painter. Inscribed: Geo. Stubbs pinxit 1780.

Portland Vase

a photo of a black vase with two handles and a relief pattern of semi naked classical figures reclining
Portland Vase Black jasper with white reliefs, 1789-90© Wedgwood Museum / V&A
This is a replica after the famous Roman cameo-glass vase, once owned by the Duchess of Portland. It took Josiah more than three years of experimentation and trials before the first perfect copy was made in October 1789. Wedgwood’s copies of the Portland Vase are considered some of the greatest technical achievements of the potter’s art.

Frog Service

a photo of a plate with a country village motif on it
Frog Service Plate, Queen’s ware, 1773-74 © Wedgwood Museum / V&A
A dessert plate painted in monochrome with a View of Castle-Acre Castle, Norfolk. The Frog Service was ordered by Empress Catherine II of Russia. It was the first plate of its kind to be decorated for this service; however, it was incorrectly painted with the oak-leaf border intended for dinner ware and, therefore, could not be sent to St Petersburg.

Blue-Printed Botanicals

a photo of a blue patterned plate with flower motifs on it
Blue-Printed Botanicals Queen’s ware, 1810-20 (34,11)© Courtesy Wedgwood Museum / V&A
The botanical patterns of the early 19th century were suggested by John Wedgwood, eldest son of Josiah and founder of the Royal Horticultural Society. One of the most original designs was the Darwin Water Lily pattern. Its name derives from the close family associations between the Wedgwoods and Darwins.

Teapot

a photo of a teapot decorated with green Chinese-style tigers
Teapot Bone china, c.1813 © Courtesy Wedgwood Museum / V&A
Wedgwood’s first period of bone china production was between 1812 and 1829. This pattern is decorated with pattern number 622 – Chinese Tigers – adapted from Oriental temple guardians. The outline is transfer-printed in black and then hand-painted in green enamel. Wedgwood’s first period of bone china production ran from 1812 until 1829.

Fairyland vase

a photo of an ornate Chinese style urn with rich decoration
Fairyland Lustre Vase Bone china, c.1920© Wedgwood Museum / V&A
Fairyland Lustre was the name given by Daisy Makeig-Jones to her range of designs based on exotic fairy stories, in which vivacious imps and fairies are seen in mystical landscapes. The designs were made by Wedgwood from 1915 until 1931, although demand declined dramatically after the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

Murray Vase

a photo of a teal coloured ribbed vase
Murray Vase, Queen’s ware, c.1935 © Courtesy Wedgwood Museum / V&A
In 1932, Keith Murray began work on a series of ceramic designs for Wedgwood, which echoed the strong lines of the modernist movement. Murray, who had trained as an architect, also designed the new Barlaston factory with his partner, CS White.

Shape 225


a photo of a tall coffee pot with a swirling black feather motif across its front
Shape 225, Bone china, 1985 © Wedgwood Museum / V&A
This new shape for fine bone china and black basalt was commissioned in 1984 by Josiah Wedgwood & Sons to celebrate the 225th anniversary of the founding of the company. It was created by Jerome Gould, of the international design studio Gould & Associates, using computer-aided design technology for the first time.
 
Borghese Vase

a photo of a blue urn decorated with classical relief figures on a plinth
Borghese Vase Jasper, 2009 (62,01)© Courtesy Wedgwood Museum / V&A
The pinnacle of jasper production today, the Borghese vase is based on a classical Roman vase now in The Louvre, Paris. The Wedgwood version has been in production since 1790 and demonstrates the continuing traditional use of Josiah Wedgwood I’s invention of jasper. This version created as part of the 250th anniversary range in 2009.

Jasper Conran Teacup and Saucer


a photo of a green cup and saucer with plant motif on it
Jasper Conran Teacup and Saucer Bone china, 2005© Wedgwood Museum / V&A
Jasper Conran’s striking patterns and contemporary shapes have evolved since the beginning of his association with Wedgwood in 2001. The collections embody his signature style, mixing heritage, inspired in part by the museum collection, with modernity. The pattern Chinoiserie was introduced in 2005.

  • The Wedgwood Collection is housed by the award-winning Wedgwood Museum at the new World of Wedgwood. Open 10am-5pm (4pm weekends). Full day tickets to the World of Wedgwood start at £15 for adults, with entry to the Wedgwood Museum from £7 per person. Visit wedgwoodmuseum.org.uk.

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Three museums to see great ceramics in:

Spode Works Visitor Centre, Stoke-on-Trent
A two-year exhibition telling the stories of the Spode factory, which ran from 1774 to 2008, including the workers, the everyday and amazing things they made and a small part of the collection of the Spode Museum Trust.

Ceramic Collection and Archive, Aberystwyth University
Started during the early 20th century and revived in the 1970s, this gallery houses a seminal collection of studio pottery.

Coalport China Museum, Telford
Home to the famous firm until 1926 and filled with the finest examples of their work, the factory's unusual buildings contain colourful displays depicting a history of china-making, as well as demonstration workshops.
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