Sorting and view mode

Miniature portrait of John Wedgwood - 1805

Miniature portrait of John Wedgwood, © Wedgwood Museum
    Miniature portrait of John Wedgwood
    © Wedgwood Museum

This box contains two medallions. One of them features John Wedgwood, son of Josiah Wedgwood I, painted in watercolour on ivory and the other one is decorated with a drawing that imitates hairwork which was popular to be incorporated in medallions at that time. It features the initials JW for John Wedgwood. As these two medallions are mounted in a case, they were probably never worn but simply made for commemorative display. The rear of the box is inscribed with pencil: "Given by Mrs Hoskins to the Etruria Museum 22/9/14. Copy of a Miniature of John Wedgwood eldest son of Josiah Wedgwood F.R.S. from the one in her posession." John was Josiah and Sarah’s eldest son, and a partner at Etruria from 1790-93 and 1800-12. He married Louisa Jane Allen, his sister in law, in 1794. Following his unsuccessful banking career, he moved from London to Wiltshire and indulged his passion for horticulture. The botanical wares with under glaze blue printing, which became a staple at the factory, were inspired by his consuming interest. Byerley considered him extremely active and intelligent.

John Wedgwood (1766-1844), eldest son of Josiah I: partner at Etruria, 1790-93, and 1800-12; married, 1794, Louisa Jane (’Jenny’) Allen, younger sister of his brother Josiah’s wife, Bessie. John had worked in the factory as early as 1781 but he never cared for the business. He was sent to Paris in 1786 to improve his French, and in the following year he went to Italy, spending a year in Rome ‘‘to try,’’ as Josiah told his friend Edgeworth, ‘‘what he can glean from thence for the improvement of the manufacture of modern Etruria.’’ From Rome, John informed his sadly disappointed father that he did not wish to make a career in the Potteries. Nevertheless, he became, soon after his return, a partner in the firm. In 1794 Josiah bought him a share in a newly-formed banking house, Alexander Davison & Co. In 1816 the bank, which had absorbed most of his considerable fortune, failed. Messrs. Coutts took over the assets and debts, and John was saved by a subscription of 12,000 raised by his brother Josiah, his sister Kitty and Sarah, and Robert Darwin. In 1800 John rejoined the firm as partner, and spent much of his time travelling between Westbury-on-Trym, near Bristol, where he lived, his office in London, and Etruria. In 1804 he moved to Seabridge, near Newcastle-under-Lyme, to be nearer to the factory, which he had come to understand required more active direction than Byerley could give to it. He set about restoring discipline and standards of production. In this formidable task he was joined by Jos in 1806, and it is clear that their joint efforts saved the firm from final failure. In 1801, John, who was specially interested in botany and horticulture, suggested to William Forsyth, the King’s gardener at St. James’s and Kensington, the founding of the Horticultural Society, of which he became the first Treasurer three years later. He withdrew from his Wedgwood partnership in 1812, but continued to live in Staffordshire until 1825, none of his four sons were associated with the firm.

  • Type of object: Wedgwood family items/paintings and portraits
  • Mark: (unmarked)
  • Year produced: 1805
  • Material: ivory, bronze
  • Accession number: 4547

Related people

  • John Wedgwood Subject

    John Wedgwood - Subject (1766 - 1844)

    Eldest son of Josiah I and Sarah, John was baptised in Burslem on 28th March 1766. In January 1794 he married Louisa Jane a younger sister of Bessy Allen, who had married his brother Jos two years before. John studied at the Warrington Academy and Edinburgh University, and was also well versed in pottery manufacturing methods. In 1790 he became a partner in the business with his brothers Jos and Tom, but in April 1793 resigned his position. He obtained a partnership in the banking house of Alexander Davison & Co. When his father died in 1795 John moved to Wiltshire where he pursued an interest in botany and horticulture. He was responsible for founding the Society for the Improvement of Horticulture (later the Royal Horticultural Society), and was its first chair at the inaugural meeting which took place at Hatchard’s in March 1804. A new partnership agreement resulted in John taking a more active interest in the firm and he was mainly responsible for the introduction of under-glaze blue-printing – many of the early patterns show distinct botanical influences and include the so-called ‘Darwin Water Lily’ in 1807. In his private life John was extravagant and despite being described by Tom Byerley as ‘extremely active and intelligent’ he was forced to resign his partnership in the firm in December 1811, and became dependent upon trusts set up by the family as he was incapable of managing his financial affairs.