'First Edition' copy of the Portland Vase

Vase
ca. 1790 (made)
'First Edition' copy of the Portland Vase thumbnail 1
'First Edition' copy of the Portland Vase thumbnail 2
+1
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Ceramics, Room 138, The Harry and Carol Djanogly Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

There are three reasons why Josiah Wedgwood (1730–95) was a uniquely important potter. First, he had a thorough understanding of the chemistry of pottery and developed or perfected a range of new materials, including Jasper, the fine stoneware of which this vase is made, Black Basalt and the creamware he marketed as ‘Queen’s Ware’. Second, he was in touch with leading architects, artists and collectors, and under their influence he promoted the neo-classical styles that were then becoming fashionable. Third, he was an astute businessman and energetically marketed his wares. The combination of technical excellence, smart classical design and clever marketing strategies made his pottery very fashionable, both in Britain and abroad. This combination is exemplified by his copies of the Portland Vase, his last great achievement.

The Portland Vase, a Roman cameo-cut glass vase of about 40–30 BC, was one of the most celebrated classical antiquities in Wedgwood’s day. He first attempted to reproduce it in 1786, and he spent over three years matching the subtlety of the lapidary-worked reliefs of the original. His copies were made in Jasper, the stoneware body he developed following thousands of experiments in the 1770s and which is still in production today. This can be stained a range of colours to provide a background for applied moulded reliefs. Having obtained the approval of leading connoisseurs and taste-makers, such as the artist Sir Joshua Reynolds, Wedgwood exhibited his perfected ‘First Edition’ copy in London in 1790, showing it to a select audience who had applied for admission tickets in advance.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Stoneware
Brief Description
'First Edition' copy of the Portland Vase, jasper with black 'dip' and white reliefs, English: Wedgwood, 1790-95
Physical Description
Wedgwood copy of the Antique original, known as the Portland Vase
Dimensions
  • Height: 25.5cm
  • Diameter: 18.2cm
Credit line
Bequeathed by John Jones
Summary
There are three reasons why Josiah Wedgwood (1730–95) was a uniquely important potter. First, he had a thorough understanding of the chemistry of pottery and developed or perfected a range of new materials, including Jasper, the fine stoneware of which this vase is made, Black Basalt and the creamware he marketed as ‘Queen’s Ware’. Second, he was in touch with leading architects, artists and collectors, and under their influence he promoted the neo-classical styles that were then becoming fashionable. Third, he was an astute businessman and energetically marketed his wares. The combination of technical excellence, smart classical design and clever marketing strategies made his pottery very fashionable, both in Britain and abroad. This combination is exemplified by his copies of the Portland Vase, his last great achievement.



The Portland Vase, a Roman cameo-cut glass vase of about 40–30 BC, was one of the most celebrated classical antiquities in Wedgwood’s day. He first attempted to reproduce it in 1786, and he spent over three years matching the subtlety of the lapidary-worked reliefs of the original. His copies were made in Jasper, the stoneware body he developed following thousands of experiments in the 1770s and which is still in production today. This can be stained a range of colours to provide a background for applied moulded reliefs. Having obtained the approval of leading connoisseurs and taste-makers, such as the artist Sir Joshua Reynolds, Wedgwood exhibited his perfected ‘First Edition’ copy in London in 1790, showing it to a select audience who had applied for admission tickets in advance.
Bibliographic References
  • See Ceramics & Glass Object Information File
  • Bryant, Julius. Art and Design for all: The Victoria and Albert Museum . London: V&A publishing, 2011. p 211. ISBN 978 1 85177 666 5
Collection
Accession Number
854-1882

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record createdOctober 4, 2007
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