TITLE: Wedgwood sugar bowl and cover
MAKER: Wedgwood Manufactory, Etruria
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Stoneware
MEASUREMENTS: 3 1/8 in x 5 3/16 in x 4 5/16 in; 7.9375 cm x 13.17625 cm x 10.95375 cm
OBJECT NAME: Sugar bowl and cover
PLACE MADE: Staffordshire, England
DATE MADE: 1800-1820
Industry and Manufacturing
ID NUMBER: 65.92
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: National Museum of American History, Division of Home and Community Life
ACCESSION NUMBER: 272503
MARKS: WEDGWOOD (/) two inverted "V"s, impressed
This sugar bowl and cover made at the Wedgwood Manufactory, Etruria, is made in red stoneware (rosso antico) with a crocodile finial and Egyptianised hieroglyphic motifs applied in black basalt stoneware: a sphinx, the winged sun disk, the twin crocodiles, the canopus jar, the falcon god Horus, the Egyptian hunting dog, all adapted from sources of Roman and not of Egyptian origin. Josiah Wedgwood’s designers probably adapted the motifs from Bernard de Montfaucon's L'Antiquité expliquée et representée en figures (Antiquity explained and represented in illustrations), published in 1719. The original source Montfaucon used was a large bronze tablet inlaid with silver made in Rome, probably in about the 1st century CE, and known as the Mensa Isiaca of Turin. It can be seen today in the city of Turin’s Egyptian Museum.
Egypt fascinated the Greeks and Romans centuries before this sugar bowl was made in England. The Romans were great producers and consumers of things, and through their knowledge of Egyptian culture they “Egyptianized” their own villas, temples, and grand monuments with objects taken from Egypt itself, or made in imitation of Egyptian models. Through the centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire evidence of ancient Egypt slipped into obscurity, even in Rome itself as the city of imperial grandeur crumbled into ruin. Not until the European Renaissance, beginning in the fifteenth century, was the earlier fascination with Egypt revived, and by the late eighteenth century the process of rediscovering ancient Egypt was greatly enhanced by travelers from Europe documenting and publishing their experiences. Designers, artisans, and manufacturers were quick to pick up on the mystifying motifs, hieroglyphs, and iconic remains from Egyptian antiquity.
Antico rosso (old red) stoneware was the name Wedgwood gave to this vitrified red clay. It was mined locally with the addition of calcined flint to improve the strength of the clay body and achieve a superior exterior surface suitable for turning on an engine lathe.
Red stoneware was first introduced to the Staffordshire potteries in the late seventeenth century when two brothers, David and John Philip Elers, opened a pottery in Bradwell Wood where there was a deposit of a suitable iron rich red clay. Imported Chinese Yi-Hsing red stoneware tea wares inspired the introduction of this type of ceramic to Europe, and several Staffordshire potters imitated these products, especially the teapots. Josiah Wedgwood developed a red stoneware and used it for his tea wares in the Egyptian style made in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, and most often for his vases inspired by the ancient Greek examples excavated in Italy during the eighteenth century.
Bob Brier, Egyptomania: Our Three Thousand Year Obsession with the Land of the Pharaohs, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.
James Stevens Curl, Egyptomania, the Egyptian Revival: a Recurring Theme in the History of Taste, Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1994.
Egyptomania: Egypt in Western Art 1730-1930, exhibition catalog, National Gallery of Canada with the Louvre, Paris, 1994.
Gordon Elliott, 2006, Aspects of Ceramic History, Vol. II, p. 78.
Frank L. Wood, 2014, The World of British Stoneware: Its History, manufacture and Wares.
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