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Black Basalt sculpture by Eduardo Paolozzi - 1997

Black Basalt Sculpture of Sir Isaac Newton by Eduardo Paolozzi, photography m.coupe, © Wedgwood Museum
    Black Basalt Sculpture of Sir Isaac Newton by Eduardo Paolozzi, photography m.coupe
    © Wedgwood Museum

Inspired by William Blake’s 1795 print ‘Newton’, this sculpture was originally produced in bronze in order to stand outside The British Library in 1997. This scaled-down version with a Black Basalt body was produced in a limited edition and at the time would have retailed for £5,750. Item depicts a seated Newton leaning forwards working on mathematical equations.

Inspired by William Blake’s 1795 print ‘Newton’, this sculpture was originally produced in bronze in order to stand outside The British Library in 1997. This scaled-down version with a Black Basalt body was produced in a limited edition and at the time would have retailed for £5,750. Item depicts a seated Newton leaning forwards working on mathematical equations.

  • Type of object: Portraits and figures/figurine
  • Mark: WEDGWOOD ®
    MADE IN
    WE ENGLAND 97 l
    [Impressed]
    Eduardo Paolozzi '97
    [Moulded signature]
    WEDGWOOD ®
    [Impressed below signature]
  • Year produced: 1997
  • Body: Black Basalt
  • Glaze: unglazed
  • Material: ceramic
  • Accession number: 9668
  • Dimensions: 347 mm (length), 250 mm (height), 195 mm (width)

Related people

  • Sir Isaac Newton Depicted

    Sir Isaac Newton - Depicted (1643 - 1727)

    Sir Isaac Newton was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian who is considered by many scholars and members of the general public to be one of the most influential people in human history. Educated at Grantham High School and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1665. Newton's formulation of the law of gravity from observing the fall of an apple came in 1666. He went on to devise a reflecting telescope, and having studied Descartes' geometry, engaged in an intensive study of mathematics, which led to him being appointed Lucasian Professor in 1669. He became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1672. By 1684 he had demonstrated the theory of gravitation and provided mathematical proof. In 1696 he was appointed warden of the Mint, and Master in 1699. From 1703 till his death he was President of the Royal Society. He was elected to the French Academie des Sciences in 1699, and his knighthood was awarded by Queen Anne in 1705. He was also a student of alchemy, and works on the Prophecies of Daniel, the Apocalypse, and the Creation among his manuscripts remain unpublished. His most important published work is the Principia Mathematica of 1684. His Optics first appeared in 1704. He is buried in Westminster Abbey

  • Sir Eduardo Paolozzi CBE, ARA

    Sir Eduardo Paolozzi CBE, ARA (1924 - 2005)

    Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, Queen’s Sculptor in Ordinary to Scotland, produced sculptures for over fifty years until his death in 2005. Born near Edinburgh in 1924, he was the son of Italian immigrants. His father sold ice cream as a means of making a living. In 1940 he inherited the ice cream business, but at night he attended Edinburgh College where he studied Arts in order to become a commercial artist. In 1944 he attended the Slade Art School of Oxford. About 1947 he went to France where he was deeply impressed by the work of Surrealist artists, with his most profound influence coming indirectly from Marcel Duchamp. In the 1960s his sculpture became geometric in origin, and in 1970 he was to design for the Wedgwood factory the series known as ‘Variations on a Geometric Theme’. Comprising six individual silk-screen printed bone china plates, 200 sets of these were produced. Each plate exhibited colour variations. In 1987 Paolozzi was to design again for the Wedgwood factory with ‘The Kalkulium Suite’ – with the six designs appearing again on a bone china medium, and the ‘Quetzalotal’ plate and mug. The 10-inch plates, in fine bone china, were issued in a limited edition of 750. The one-pint mug was in Queen’s ware, and was limited to an edition of 2,000. His latest work for Wedgwood was the magnificent black basalt figure depicting Newton. Inspired by the painting by Blake, the sculpture was originally produced in bronze in order to stand outside The British Library in 1997. The scaled-down version in black basalt was produced in a limited edition by the Wedgwood factory and has received much acclaim.

Glossary

  • Black Basalt

    Black Basalt

    A fine-grained black stoneware body, composed of ball clay, calcined ochre and manganese oxide. Josiah Wedgwood developed black basalt in 1768 to replace the earlier ‘black Egyptian’ ware produced in Staffordshire in the mid-eighteenth century. 

     

    Basalt was described by Josiah Wedgwood as ‘A fine black Porcelain, having nearly the same properties as the Basaltes i.e., the mineral rock', resisting the Attack of Acids; being a Touch-stone to Copper, Silver and Gold, and equal in Hardness to Agate or Porphyry'. It was the result of his experiments to perfect fine-grained stoneware suitable for the production of ornamental pieces, one that would complement the neo-classical styles then coming into vogue. It is probable that Wedgwood was experimenting with a basalt body in September 1767. He wrote to Bentley, ‘I am still going on with my tryals, & want much to shew you some of them'. Certainly within 12 months Basalt was generally available. From 1773 Wedgwood's plain-black body became universally known as ‘basaltes'. Both ornamental and useful wares were produced in this versatile body and it was used to make virtually anything the public required. Wedgwood placed great confidence in his material, predicting that ‘Black is Sterling and will last for ever'.

    Black clay was derived from ‘Carr', an oxide of iron suspended in the water that had flowed through coal seams and mines. This was drained and dried and then sold by the cartload to potters for use in the production of basalt pottery. Wedgwood made no secret of his recipe for Basalt, which he recorded on page 236 of ‘Common Place Book I. The entry is dated 1777, and reads:

    ‘Our Black Basalt Body. 80 of ball clay sifted 80 of Carr [ochre] calcined & ground 9 of manganese. The above is one Blending.'

    When these ingredients were fired together at a high temperature they vitrified into a fine-textured black body. The distinctive colour of Wedgwood's basalt, which has a deep purplish-black hue, is due to the high proportion of manganese included in the formula.