Vase and cover of soft-paste porcelain, painted with enamels, gilded and moulded, made by Derby Porcelain factory, Derby, ca. 1770-1774.
Height: 27.3 cm, Diameter: 12.1 cm
The Genuis of Wedgwood (Victoria & Albert Museum 01/01/1995-31/12/2006)
British Galleries, room 118d
One of a pair with 414:239/1, 2-1885 (Sch. I 372&A).
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]
Vase and cover of soft-paste porcelain, painted with enamels, gilded and moulded.
[Vase] Vase with an oviform body and short concave neck with claret-coloured ground, and it is supported by three white caryatid figures ending downwards in lions' paws, which rest on a moulded circular pedestal painted with trophies of arms en grisaille, and wreaths of flowers, painted, are festooned round the body and across the figures.
[Cover] High domed cover decorated with gilt pierced rococo scrolls and surmounted by a bouquet of flowers.
Perfume vases (also known as 'essence pots' and pot-pourri vases) were set out on chimneypieces. They were filled with pot-pourri (perfumed or sweet-smelling leaves) similar to those used to sweeten the air in domestic interiors today. Perfume vases of this design were made in pairs, but also sold singly.
Design & Designing
The market for vases in the 'antique' style grew rapidly in the late 1760s, as the Neo-classical style gained ground. The demand was so great that, in addition to copying genuine Greek and Roman antiquities, manufacturers took designs from prints of the 17th and 18th centuries. Some of these prints were highly fanciful inventions, which may not have been seriously intended for production. The design here is taken from a print in Joseph-Marie Vien's Suite de Vases of 1760. The shape was made at Chelsea prior to its takeover by the Derby porcelain factory in 1770. Vien's engraved design was also copied in Black Basalt by the Staffordshire potter Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795).
Chelsea porcelain vases of this shape were sold at a London auction held in 1770. They were described as 'antique urns upon pedestals ... ornamented with womens heads, and garlands of flowers'. They realized £6 5s for a pair and £3 12s for a single one. At that time, Chelsea and Derby modellers earned around £2 11s. per week.