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The Wedgwood Museum − Collections

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Nautilus dessert service - dish - 1785-90

Nautilus desssert service - dish, © Wedgwood Museum
    Nautilus desssert service - dish
    © Wedgwood Museum

Josiah Wedgwood had many interests - but conchology, or shell-collecting, really fired his imagination. His close observations of these natural forms directly inspired him, and later generations, to produce shapes and surface decoration inspired by what he called these '...beautiful mansions.' Some of these shell shapes have been in production for nearly two and a half centuries.

During his lifetime Josiah Wedgwood amassed a large collection of shells that he left to his sons. His ongoing interest in nature’s works of art or ‘those beautiful mansions’ as he described them, were reflected not only in the ceramic forms he produced such as these Nautilus dessert wares, but also in the surface patterns he evolved. Josiah was proud of his working knowledge of shell names and he declared himself to his partner, Thomas Bentley, to be ‘…in imminent danger of becoming a connoisseur.’ He even asked Thomas to take time-out on his honeymoon in Margate to look for interesting shells to add to his ever-growing collection!

  • Type of object: Dessert ware/bowl
  • Mark: WEDGWOOD
  • Year produced: 1785-90
  • Body: Queen's ware, cream-coloured earthenware
  • Glaze: clear glaze
  • Material: ceramic
  • Decoration: hand-enamelled
  • Accession number: 5166h

Other images


  • Queen’s ware

    Queen’s ware

    In 1765 Wedgwood provided a tea and coffee service to Her Majesty Queen Charlotte (wife of George III) in the new earthenware body he had recently perfected. She was so pleased with the set that she not only allowed Josiah to style himself ‘Potter to Her Majesty’, she also allowed him to call his new earthenware ‘Queen’s ware’ - a name by which Wedgwood’s cream coloured earthenware is still known today.