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Lydia Dwight Resurrected

  • Object:

    Figure

  • Place of origin:

    England, Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1674 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    John Dwight, born 1628 - died 1703 (inventor)
    John Dwight's Fulham Pottery (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Stoneware, hand-modelled and salt-glazed

  • Museum number:

    1054-1871

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, room 58c, case 3

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Object Type
One of the earliest experiments in European ceramic sculpture, this object was commissioned by the father of the dead child in order to capture her likeness and perpetuate her memory. It was personal and private, perhaps not intended for open display in the house

People
Lydia Dwight was six years old when she died on 3 March 1674 (1673 by the Old Calendar). Although the commissioning of such a piece of sculpture suggests no lack of grief on the part of the parents, as usual in an unsentimental age noted for its high infant mortality, the next daughter was also christened Lydia.

Materials & Making
John Dwight's first patent for salt-glazed stoneware, of 1672, did not list statues and figures among the types of product to be protected. They were, however, included in his second patent of 1684, when he had apparently stopped making them. Almost all his figures, like these two examples, were actually made in the 1670s. He is known to have shown a bust of Dr Willis and a figure to members of the Royal Society in 1674 and was clearly attempting to adapt his tough new material to the delicate art of modelling in clay, terracotta or wax at exactly the time his daughter Lydia died. The identity of the four different modellers involved in his experiments, assumed to be from Italy or the Low Countries, still remain a mystery. Dwight's failure to make commercial use of his stoneware figures has denied him the role of founder of the later tradition of English pottery and porcelain figures. But his attempts to link the stoneware material to art does have parallels with Josiah Wedgwood and Sir Henry Doulton in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Physical description

Standing figure of a girl, Lydia Dwight, with clasped hands, wearing a shroud, with a skull and flowers at her feet.

Place of Origin

England, Great Britain (made)

Date

1674 (made)

Artist/maker

John Dwight, born 1628 - died 1703 (inventor)
John Dwight's Fulham Pottery (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Stoneware, hand-modelled and salt-glazed

Marks and inscriptions

The figure of the dead Lydia is incised in the clay 'Lydia Dwight dyed March 3 1673' (by the modern calendar, 1674)

Dimensions

Height: 28.7 cm, Width: 10.5 cm

Object history note

This figure of Lydia Dwight was made at the Fulham Pottery, which was run by her father John Dwight, shortly after her death, at the age of 6 years, in 1674 (1673 by the old calendar)

Descriptive line

White stoneware figure of a girl, Lydia Dwight, wearing a shroud, with a skull and flowers at her feet. English, ca.1674. Made at John Dwight's Fulham Pottery.

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

Mavis Bimson. John Dwight. In: English Ceramic Circle Transactions. London, 1961. Volume 5, Part 2, p.101, plate 112b.
Bimson categorises this piece amongst the best produced at the Fulham Pottery and links it to several others with similar characteristics, 'the figures appear to fall into four definite groups. The first and finest group consists of the bust of Lydia Dwight, the standing figure of Lydia, the bust of Pince Rupert and the younger Charles II. All these have the same heavy eyelids and lack of detail in the pupils.'
Sturgis, Alexander. Presence: The Art of Portrait Sculpture. England: The Antique collectors club Ltd, 2012. pp. 97 and back page. ISBN 978-1-85149-685-3

Exhibition History

Presence: the art of portrait sculpture (The Holburne Museum of Art 26/05/2012-02/09/2012)
Special Loan Exhibition, 1862. (Victoria & Albert Museum 01/01/1862-31/12/1862)
The Art of Death: Visual Culture in the English Death Ritual c.1500 - c.1800 (Victoria & Albert Museum 08/01/1992-22/03/1992)

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Lydia Dwight was the daughter of John Dwight, founder of the Fulham pottery. She died aged six in 1674. The figure of Lydia dead shows her dressed in her burial clothes, clutching a posy of flowers. White was an appropriate mourning colour for a child. The figure of Lydia standing represents her resurrection. Belief in life after death was a great comfort to the living. Her burial shroud hangs loosely around her body, with symbols of life (flowers) and death (a skull) at her feet. [25/03/2003]

Production Note

This figure was made at Dwight's Fulham pottery using techniques patented by him.
1055-1871 is another figure of Lydia Dwight made at the Fulham Pottery after her death.

Materials

Stoneware; Salt glaze; Salt-glazed stoneware

Techniques

Modelling (forming)

Subjects depicted

Flowers (plants); Skull (skeleton component); Dwight, Lydia

Categories

Ceramics; British Galleries

Collection code

CER

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Qr_O8070
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