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Medallion - Polyphemus and Cupid on a dolphin
  • Polyphemus and Cupid on a dolphin
    Josiah Wedgwood and Sons
  • Enlarge image

Polyphemus and Cupid on a dolphin

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Etruria (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1772 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Josiah Wedgwood and Sons (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    White 'terracotta' stoneware

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

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

Object Type
The roundel is one of a set of 14 medallions intended for decorating interiors such as halls. In 1771 Wedgwood wrote to his partner suggesting that he show examples of the reliefs to Robert Adam in the hope of provoking 'some new idea of disposing of them'.

Material & Making
The relief is made in a type of pottery that Wedgwood marketed as 'white terracotta stoneware'. He described it as being 'of great beauty and delicacy, proper for cameos, portraits and bas-reliefs'. A range of ornamental ceramics was made in the new 'terracotta' material, including architectural plaques, cameos, medallions, flower pots, vases and paint boxes.

The body itself is dense and hard. It is similar in appearance to unglazed creamware (an earthenware made by combining white-firing clays and calcined flint), but was probably fired at a higher temperature. It could be painted in enamels and glazed.

Design & Designing
The paintings excavated at Herculaneum were illustrated by Thomas Martyn and John Lettice in The Antiquities of Herculaneum, to which Wedgwood subscribed in 1773. By that date his 'Herculaneum Bass-reliefs' were already in production, their source being the set of plaster reliefs owned by Lord Lansdowne.

Place of Origin

Etruria (made)


ca. 1772 (made)


Josiah Wedgwood and Sons (maker)

Materials and Techniques

White 'terracotta' stoneware


Diameter: 39.9 cm

Object history note

Made at Josiah Wedgwood's factory, Etruria, Staffordshire

Descriptive line

Wall medallion - Polyphemus and Cupid on a dolphin

Labels and date

British Galleries:

These panels are based on ancient Roman wall paintings of mythological subjects excavated at Herculaneum in southern Italy. Wedgwood took moulds from a set of plaster reliefs owned by the 1st Marquess of Landsdowne (1737-1805). He hoped that panels of this type would be used in interiors by Robert Adam (1728-1792) and other architects working in the Neo-classical style. [27/03/2003]


Ceramics; Figures & Decorative ceramics


Ceramics Collection

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