Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.



  • Place of origin:

    Derby (made)

  • Date:

    1778-1780 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Derby Porcelain factory (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Soft-paste porcelain, painted in enamels and gilt

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Sydney A. Erwood

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 118, The Wolfson Gallery, case 2 []

Object Type
The vase is one from a pair and would have been displayed on a domestic mantelpiece or other furnishing. Both front and back are finely painted with figure scenes, so the vases were probably intended to be seen from both sides or displayed in front of a mirror. 'Antique', or Neo-classical, vases like this were also kept in glazed cabinets and set out on ladies' dressing tables. A Derby auction catalogue of 1773 states that 'Antique' vases were 'particularly adapted for the Decoration of Chimney Pieces, Cabinets, Toilets. &c.' Small vases on pedestals were also set out on dining tables during the dessert course of grand meals, but these vases were usually unglazed.

Design & Designing
The vases are rare examples of the Derby factory copying a Classical source. The figure subjects are derived from Pompeian wall paintings. Derby's immediate source for these was T. Martyn and J. Lettice's The Antiquities of Herculaneum (1773), to which William Duesbury (1725-1786), the owner of the factory, subscribed.

A London auction held by the Derby factory in 1778 included a pair of vases that were probably similar to these. They were described as 'One pair Etruscan vases enamel'd with Herculean figures, fine blue ground striped with gold' and realized £3 13s 6d. At that time, Chelsea and Derby modellers earned around £2 11s. per week.

Physical description

PORCELAIN VASE (one of a pair)

Place of Origin

Derby (made)


1778-1780 (made)


Derby Porcelain factory (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Soft-paste porcelain, painted in enamels and gilt


Height: 25.4 cm, Width: 12.06 cm

Object history note

Made at the Derby porcelain factory

Descriptive line



Labels and date

British Galleries:

Vases were a very important element of the Neo-classical style. The pottery manufacturer Josiah Wedgwood, who could hardly make them fast enough, spoke of 'vasemania'. They appeared as three-dimensional objects and as decorative motifs. Vase forms also influenced the shape of practical items of all sorts, from tea canisters to candlesticks. Designers plundered sources far and wide for new designs, from Greek pottery to 16th- and 17th-century prints. [27/03/2003]


Ceramics; Porcelain


Ceramics Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.