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Egyptian-style teapot with crocodile finial - 1800

The ‘crocodile teapot’, ©  Wedgwood Museum
    The ‘crocodile teapot’
    © Wedgwood Museum

The Wedgwood factory drew on many design sources for inspiration for classical wares, as well as Egyptian inspired production. In the early years of the nineteenth century red rosso antico ‘Egyptian’ teawares, with either black or white decoration, proved to be very popular - particularly in the aftermath of Nelson’s naval victory at the Battle of the Nile.

Josiah Wedgwood I had produced ranges of Egyptian inspired wares, such as vases and medallions, since the 1760s. Egyptian style became very fashionable in the early years of the nineteenth century after Horatio Nelson’s victory in the Battle of the Nile. The Wedgwood factory responded to this with highly decorative tea wares often decorated with hieroglyphic bas-reliefs. The hieroglyphs were used purely for decoration, as at that time little was understood about the ancient culture of Egypt until the hieroglyphic code was ‘cracked’ by Jean Champollion in 1822. Emma Hamilton, Nelson’s mistress, decreed that he ought to be made ‘Baron Crocodile’ because of his exploits at Aboukir Bay - scene of the battle. Some authorities believe that the crocodile finials used on these Egyptian style wares evolved as a direct result of her pronouncement.

  • Type of object: Teaware/teapot
  • Mark: WEDGWOOD
  • Year produced: 1800
  • Body: rosso antico
  • Material: ceramic
  • Decoration: ornamented
  • Accession number: 10703
  • Dimensions: 102 mm (height), 212 mm (width), 148 mm (depth)

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Related people

  • Jean Champollion Associated

    Jean Champollion - Associated (1790 - 1832)

    French Egyptologist who is celebrated as the father of modern Egyptology. He deciphered the hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone, thus laying the foundations for Egyptian archaeology.