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Trial portrait medallion - Torbern Bergman
  • Torbern Bergman
    Sergel, Johan Tobias, born 1740 - died 1814
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Torbern Bergman

  • Object:

    Trial portrait medallion

  • Place of origin:

    Etruria (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1786-1787 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sergel, Johan Tobias, born 1740 - died 1814 (sculptor)
    Josiah Wedgwood's factory (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Jasper, with applied relief

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs Ursula Vaughan Williams

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 118; The Wolfson Gallery, case 3

Object Type
Portrait medallions had long been made in metal, and were popular in wax and ivory in mid-18th century England. Wedgwood, however, was the first person to manufacture them in stoneware on a commercial scale.

Wedgwood's medallions of 'Modern Subjects' were probably hung on the wall, in wood or brass frames, to display the political and cultural allegiances of the household. Sets of portrait medallions were also kept in cabinets. Wedgwood's letters indicate that his 'Modern Subjects' sold best when their subjects were most topical.

Torbern Bergman (1735-1814) was a Swedish chemist and natural historian. He is remembered for his contributions to the science of analysis and for his investigations into volcanic action.

Design & Designing
Wedgwood probably copied the portrait from a glass paste medallion manufactured by James Tassie (1735-1799). Tassie in turn probably copied his portrait from a plaster relief by the Swedish sculptor Tobias Sergel (1740-1814), which is now in the National Museum, Sweden.

Materials & Making
The medallion is made of Jasper, a fine-grained stoneware that Wedgwood developed as a material for manufacturing medallions and gems. It was one of a range of new materials that he introduced to meet changes in taste.

Physical description

Oval medallion with head and shoulders portrait in low relief white Jasper stoneware on a very pale green Jasper dip ground; he is shown without a wig and facing right; the front impressed 'BERGMAN' below truncation; the back impressed 'WEDGWOOD' and inscribed 'ground new 1681' and 'head old 1681' and with two large firing holes.
White Jasper stoneware low relief applied to a Jasper 'dip' ground both relief and support produced in a mould and luted together before firing.

Place of Origin

Etruria (made)


ca. 1786-1787 (made)


Sergel, Johan Tobias, born 1740 - died 1814 (sculptor)
Josiah Wedgwood's factory (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Jasper, with applied relief


Height: 7 cm approx., Width: 5.5 cm approx.

Object history note

Formerly Loan: V.Williams.2.
Made at Josiah Wedgwood's factory, Etruria, Staffordshire; based on a plaster medallion by Johan Tobias Sergel (born in Stockholm, 1740, died in Stockholm, 1814)
Provenance: by descent through the Wedgwood, Darwin and Vaughan Williams families.

Descriptive line

Trial portrait medallion of Torbern Bergman (1735-1814), Swedish chemist and natural historian; Jasper relief on Jasper 'dip' ground; Josiah Wedgwood, Etruria, Staffordshire, probably about 1786-7.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This medallion was an experimental piece using two different versions of the Jasper formula. On the reverse Wedgwood inscribed 'ground new 1681' and 'head old 1681'. He conducted thousands of experiments on Jasper between about 1772 and 1777 and continued to improve the recipes during the following decade. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

after a plaster medallion by T. Sergel


Jasper ware


Ceramics; Portraits; Science; British Galleries


Ceramics Collection

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