Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 118; The Wolfson Gallery

Sir William Hamilton

Medallion
1780-1800 (made), ca. 1773 (designed)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.

Use
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.

People
Between 1764 and 1800 Sir William Hamilton, the subject of this medallion, was ambassador to the court of Naples. Here he took a close interest in the archaeological excavations at Herculaneum and Pompeii and formed a vast collection of Greek and Roman vases. The publication of his collection, starting in 1766, was a landmark in the development of the Neo-classical style. In 1772 the collection was bought by the British Museum. It was the most important design source for Wedgwood's vases.

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. The portrait relief was made in a mould taken from a wax model. The details on the relief were probably sharpened up before firing with wooden or metal tools.



object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Jasper with blue dip and applied white relief
Brief Description
Portrait medallion of Sir William Hamilton
Dimensions
  • Height: 8.89cm
  • Width: 6.98cm
Gallery Label
British Galleries: Sir William Hamilton (1730-1803) formed an important collection of Greek pottery vases, which he sold to the British Museum in 1772. He published engravings of his vases in four folio volumes from 1766. Hamilton supported Wedgwood, giving him drawings and models for him to copy and advising him on matters of design.(27/03/2003)
Object history
Made at Josiah Wedgwood's factory, Etruria, Staffordshire; adapted from an original modelled in wax in 1772 by Joachim Smith (born, about 1737, died in 1814)
Production
First issued about 1773; this example 1780-1800
Summary
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.

Use
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.

People
Between 1764 and 1800 Sir William Hamilton, the subject of this medallion, was ambassador to the court of Naples. Here he took a close interest in the archaeological excavations at Herculaneum and Pompeii and formed a vast collection of Greek and Roman vases. The publication of his collection, starting in 1766, was a landmark in the development of the Neo-classical style. In 1772 the collection was bought by the British Museum. It was the most important design source for Wedgwood's vases.

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. The portrait relief was made in a mould taken from a wax model. The details on the relief were probably sharpened up before firing with wooden or metal tools.

Collection
Accession Number
1489-1855

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record createdMarch 27, 2003
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