Given the heroic efforts made by Josiah Wedgwood in the late eighteenth century to produce...
Given the heroic efforts made by Josiah Wedgwood in the late eighteenth century to produce an accurate copy of the ancient Roman Portland Vase, it is perhaps ironic to note the deliberate modifications made by his descendants in their nineteenth century versions. The adjustments made in the drapery of the figures to preserve their (and their viewers') modesty are well known. More dramatic was the dropping of one handle and addition of a spout to create this dark blue jasper dip jug. The best of these adaptations, such as the present jug, nevertheless preserve a high standard of relief detail and a care in execution worthy of the tradition this design represents in Wedgwood's history.
The lower part of the jug is unchanged from the replicas of the vase. Partially draped classical figures--gods, demi-gods, humans--sit or stand amid rocks and architectural elements. Speculation over the specific subject dates as far back as its discovery. Consensus today seems to favor the theory that it depicts incidents from the myth of Peleus and of Thetis, mother of Achilles.
By the time of this jug's creation the original vase was in the collection of the British Museum. Wedgwood's replicas put the vase into the parlors of connoisseurs. The jug adaptation, whether motivated by a commercialism or a desire to lift the design standards of consumer goods, brought the Portland design into the realm of domestic function.
|Date:||Date Code JKU, 1866|
|Dimensions:||Height 6 in. ; width 4 7/8 in.; diameter 4 1/2 in.|
|Condition:||Fine; network of surface cracks at base of handle that appear to be result of firing stress
Other potters adapted the Portland Vase into jug form; Samuel Alcock comes to mind. These...
Other potters adapted the Portland Vase into jug form; Samuel Alcock comes to mind. These versions, however, retain the tapered waist and relatively narrow opening of the original vase. Wedgwood--though one might expect them to be the most faithful to the original--widened the neck and smoothed out the silhouette and achieved a more graceful and perhaps more functional jug form.