Pair of Wedgwood black basalt vases and covers, 19th century, of ovoid form upon pedestals, the round bodies decorated with central relief medallions containing Aurora driving her chariot, Minerva with her helmet and shield and a woman in Classical robes making an offering on an altar beside a tree; framed by garlands of flowers held by rams’ heads, the waisted feet decorated in further white relief with bands of stiff leaves, the lids similarly decorated with a circle of lappets to the rims.
Height with lid: 21.5cm. (8 ½ in.)
Some small cracks to edges of relief decoration, one lid with knop broken and restuck, one base with shallow chip to corner
Vases such as these were purely decorative, and exemplified the fashion for neoclassical style which emerged in 18th century Britain. This fashion embodied an idealisation of ancient Greco-Roman civilisations following contemporary archaeological discoveries at Herculaneum and Pompeii. As great a businessman as he was a potter, Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) proclaimed that he was to be ‘Vase Maker General to the Universe’ and capitalised on this trend by improving or developing technologies and techniques to produce pieces in the Classical style. One material which he perfected was black basalt, made from an iron oxide suspended in water which has flowed through a coal seam or mine.