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  • Candlestick
    Sir William Chambers, born 1723 - died 1796
  • Enlarge image


  • Place of origin:

    Etruria (made)

  • Date:

    1771 (designed)
    after 1780 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sir William Chambers, born 1723 - died 1796 (designer)
    Josiah Wedgwood and Sons (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Black basalt

  • Credit Line:

    Transferred from the Museum of Practical Geology, Jermyn Street

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 118; The Wolfson Gallery, case 8

Object Type
A painting of an English drawing room shows a pair of these griffin candlesticks set out on a marble chimneypiece, one at each end and facing one another. The painting probably accurately shows how they were intended to be used.

Design & Designing
The candlestick copies an ormolu (gilt bronze) one designed by the architect Sir William Chambers for a client. Chambers lent Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) a lead or carved-wood casting model of the candlestick, but Wedgwood had to have this remade for reproduction in pottery. In 1771 he wrote that 'the Griffin Candlestick is alter'd sure enough, for Hackwood [William Hackwood, one of Wedgwood's modellers] was oblig'd to new model it. I hope all the world will not have Mr Chambers's Eyes'. Wedgwood had problems firing the candlestick, complaining that 'the tips of the Griffins wings will not stick to the top of the head as ... in the Lead or Wood pattern', and that 'they all fly off' in the kiln.

Sir William Chambers (1723-1796), the King's architect, was an important influence on the design of Wedgwood's ornamental wares. Not only did he did he lend Wedgwood models to copy, but he also advised him on matters of design.

Physical description

Candlestick of black basalt, in the form of a figure of a griffin seated. The socket is decorated with festoons of flowers and is supported on the head and upraised wings of the griffin; round the neck is entwined a garland. The oblong plinth is moulded with conventional ornament in sunk panels.

Place of Origin

Etruria (made)


1771 (designed)
after 1780 (made)


Sir William Chambers, born 1723 - died 1796 (designer)
Josiah Wedgwood and Sons (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Black basalt

Marks and inscriptions



Height: 34 cm, Width: 16.2 cm base

Object history note

Based on a design by Sir William Chambers (born in G”teborg, Sweden, 1723, died in London, 1796)
Made at Josiah Wedgwood's factory, Etruria, Staffordshire

Descriptive line

Griffin candlestick, black basalt, made at the factory of Josiah Wedgwood, Etruria, Staffordshire, made after 1780

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Young, Hilary (ed.). The Genius of Wedgwood. London : Victoria & Albert Museum, 1995

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Sir William Chambers, like other Neo-classical architects, designed objects for general use as well as buildings and interiors. This type of candlestick, in the form of a griffin, was first made in gilt-bronze in about 1767. Wedgwood made a Black Basalt version of it in 1771. Such candlesticks were designed to be shown as facing pairs on mantelpieces. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

First made 1771; this example made after 1780



Subjects depicted



Ceramics; Stoneware


Ceramics Collection

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