Bodies and shapes

By the early 1770s Queen's ware, the creamware which Josiah had perfected in the 1760s, in which he made his earliest neo-classical vases, had been on the market for some time. Josiah realised he needed to diversify, and knowing the business acumen of his partner Thomas Bentley, he wrote to him in December 1774: ‘I apprehend our customers will not much longer be content with Queen's Ware it being now render'd vulgar and common everywhere'.

Bentley, whose refinement, education and good taste moulded the successful trading activities of the company, provided a constant steam of information on changing fashions and styles. This was vital to keep Wedgwood's wares in the forefront of popularity with potential customers and fashion-setters, and as a result of his experiments Josiah was able to create new products to satisfy demand for the rage for neo-classical interiors.

As the popularity of Queen's ware's waned, so Josiah produced products in his newly developed bodies: pearlware, rosso antico and caneware. However it was other newly developed bodies – black basalt, often with encaustic painting, agate and porphyry, and jasper – which were most elegantly suited to neo-classical forms.

These bodies were used for vases, plaques, busts, cameos and medallions, all copying classical shapes or decorated with subjects with classical themes or styles.

When large houses were solely candle-lit after dark, candles, and their holders, were a significant item, in both interior décor and the household budget. Candle-vases had reversible covers - the lid had a conventional finial, but could be reversed, revealing a candle nozzle. When the shoulders or lid of the vase were pierced with holes, and held perfumed essences for scenting a room, it became a cassolette or pot-pourri vase.

Images

Rosso antico vase with black ornament, showing the Procession of the Deities. Modelled in Rome, 1788

Rosso antico vase with black ornament, showing the Procession of the Deities. Modelled in Rome, 1788