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Not currently on display at the V&A

The First day's vase

Vase
1769 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

To mark the successful opening of the new Etruria factory Wedgwood and his business partner Thomas Bentley 'threw' six vases to mark the occasion. Transfer of production from Burslem to Etruria had taken place gradually between November 1768 and the following spring. On 13th June 1769 the new ornamental works were formally declared open. The occasion was celebrated with Josiah personally 'throwing' six vases, with Thomas Bentley turning the wheel. Josiah used his newly-perfected Black Basalt stoneware body to create these celebratory pieces.
After the pieces had been turned and fired the vases were sent to the London decorating studios to be painted in encaustic enamel colours. On one side the vases were decorated with ‘Hercules in the Garden of Hesperides’ copied from plate 129 in the first volume of the catalogue of Sir William Hamilton’s renowned collection of antiquities. The reverse of the vases was decorated with an inscription and the date – 13th June 1769. The inscription, painted in red enamel, was the latin motto ‘Artes Etruriae Renascuntur’ – the Arts of Etruria are Reborn.
Josiah wrote to Bentley in November 1769 commenting that these vases ‘shod. be finished as high as you please, but not sold, they being the first fruits of Etruria’. The figurative decoration was probably the work of William Hopkins Craft, one of the most-skilled painters to be employed by Wedgwood and Bentley in London, while David Rhodes, the manager of the London decorating works, probably painted the inscription and borders.
Of the six vases originally 'thrown', only four survived the firing and decorating processes. This vase is one of two in the Wedgwood Museum’s collection.A third one has recently been acquired for The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent and the fourth is owned by the Wedgwood Family.


Object details

Category
Object type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Vase
  • Cover
TitleThe First day's vase
Materials and techniques
black basalt with enamel decoration
Brief description
First Day’s Vase, shape 49 in the Shape Number One Book, made by Josiah Wedgwood and Thomas Bentley, 1769, Black basalt stoneware painted in encaustic enamel.
Physical description
Black basalt vase with encaustic enamel decoration of a scene of Hercules in the garden with Hesperides on the front and an inscription on the reverse.
Dimensions
  • Height: 260mm
  • Diameter: 140mm
Marks and inscriptions
JUNE XIII.M.DCC.LXIX / One of the first Days Product / at / Etruria in Staffordshire / by / Wedgwood and Bentley
Credit line
V&A Wedgwood Collection. Presented by Art Fund with major support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, private donations and a public appeal.
Summary
To mark the successful opening of the new Etruria factory Wedgwood and his business partner Thomas Bentley 'threw' six vases to mark the occasion. Transfer of production from Burslem to Etruria had taken place gradually between November 1768 and the following spring. On 13th June 1769 the new ornamental works were formally declared open. The occasion was celebrated with Josiah personally 'throwing' six vases, with Thomas Bentley turning the wheel. Josiah used his newly-perfected Black Basalt stoneware body to create these celebratory pieces.
After the pieces had been turned and fired the vases were sent to the London decorating studios to be painted in encaustic enamel colours. On one side the vases were decorated with ‘Hercules in the Garden of Hesperides’ copied from plate 129 in the first volume of the catalogue of Sir William Hamilton’s renowned collection of antiquities. The reverse of the vases was decorated with an inscription and the date – 13th June 1769. The inscription, painted in red enamel, was the latin motto ‘Artes Etruriae Renascuntur’ – the Arts of Etruria are Reborn.
Josiah wrote to Bentley in November 1769 commenting that these vases ‘shod. be finished as high as you please, but not sold, they being the first fruits of Etruria’. The figurative decoration was probably the work of William Hopkins Craft, one of the most-skilled painters to be employed by Wedgwood and Bentley in London, while David Rhodes, the manager of the London decorating works, probably painted the inscription and borders.
Of the six vases originally 'thrown', only four survived the firing and decorating processes. This vase is one of two in the Wedgwood Museum’s collection.A third one has recently been acquired for The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent and the fourth is owned by the Wedgwood Family.
Collection
Accession number
WE.7569-2014

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Record createdMarch 31, 2022
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