Cameos and medallions

Intaglios and cameos and formed a large part of Wedgwood's jasper production, due to the initial difficulties of firing large pieces. Intaglios, in which the design is carved into a flat surface, were used for seals, either mounted in holders or set into rings. Production started in 1769, and soon there were 1,700 subjects on offer.

Cameos, where the design is in relief, were described by Josiah in his 1779 Catalogue of Ornamental Wares as suitable for rings, buttons, lockets, bracelets and inlaying into furniture. However, they came to be used in an even greater variety of ways than Josiah enumerated: on clock cases and pendulums, chatelaines, watch cases and keys, snuff-, patch- and work-boxes, needle- and toothpick-cases, writing desks and sword hilts, metal vases, urns and lamps, perfume bottles, opera glasses and coach panels.

The subjects were created from waxes, either modelled by artists at home, or sent from Italy as antique originals or copies. The popularity of these cameos and intaglios amongst collectors made their reproduction a minor industry.

Cameos for personal use might be mounted in cut-steel or ormolou settings. Men adorned their coats with large, gaudy jasper buttons, their shoes with jasper-set buckles. Women decorated their costumes with brooches and dress-buckles, while wearing bracelets, earrings, necklaces, rings and lockets, all inset with Wedgwood cameos.




Glass paste cameos by James Tassie, c.1769

Glass paste cameos by James Tassie, c.1769