During my last travel to Scotland I visited one of those warehouses concealed among bumpy roads and forests. Walking through racks filled up by antiquities, a pair of objects caught my attention. They were two pieces of pottery: a mug and a little plate, with a pale-cobalt blue tonality and matt finishing. I wouldn’t realize them if they hadn’t held those great classical reliefs.
Immediately I thought of “The Apotheosis of Homer” by John Flaxman owing to their design resemblance. This masterpiece is heir of the “Portland Vase” and so on. I couldn’t help it. It was a bargain! After fishing in my wallet I had to find out both the inception and the cause of these products and then I discovered marks underneath the ware:
“Wedgwood” “Made in England”. The one of the mug was certain. Therefore I researched thoroughly till further information.
Wedgwood is a company whose origin was a small english pottery shop which dates from 17th century. Josiah Wedgwood was the most renowned member of that lineage. I am not here to write his biography, nevertheless it is important to underline that he set up his own factory at Staffordshire outskirts by 1789. A few years later his brand new Jasperware collection was shown. It receives this name because of the paste mixture includes that mineral, jasper. The decoration used to be done through Sprigging, by pushing moulds on the soft clay which stays in so-called cheese hard stage.
Far from their end, surprises carried on because I located that John Flaxman, the neoclassical one, was working for Josiah’s factory in his beginning. Consequently, it is easy to realize that Flaxman was influenced by classic art (as Portland Vase) and his relations with Wedgwood Company.
The most of the Neo-Classical works are devoid of political and social truthful meaning. And if some of them have it, it is completely different to that of the classicism. We have just to think about the religious purpose either on the pediment sculptures or the roman forum portraits. Then, I have to confess the classical reliefs that these pottery contain are, up to a point, aimless. Just some mythological episodes picked at random with decorative function exclusively. We could even find the prime source of them as now I write down.
It is Bellerophon next to Pegasus, the winged horse. There is a classical relief which possesses exactly the same design. Pose and environment of both figures are extremely alike. For now, I couldn’t find out the author and the creation place of the relief, but the image showed by myself is an engraving worked before the own relief. It has been imitated on varying means dozens of times, for example by Julius Troschel, the german neo-classical artist.
It would be interesting try to give them a date. I came back to the marks underneath of the ware because it was the easiest way to do it, up to I find out beyond them. I have checked www.thepotteries.org and it seems that those specific marks could be later than 1929. The reason is that “Wedgwood” mark appears in “sans serif” font and “Made in England” has been aplicatted in a different moment. The font aforementioned was introduced on that date. I am going to email the company as soon as possible in order to achieve further knowledge of it.
Not everybody could agree with him, of course, but Kenneth Clark noted the 19th Century works were “lifeless because they no longer embodied real human needs and experiences”. These works “encumbered the art and architecture of the utilitarian century”. If we had football teams shields instead of reliefs of Greek tradition neither the function nor the quality of the pottery would be affected. One must figure out which questions should be made because that last belongs to the “Taste” matter. Needless to say classicism is in good taste.
(Mistakes? Suggestions please)
(Mistakes? Suggestions please)