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A Purer Taste of Forms and Ornaments: Josiah Wedgwood and the Antique

October 24, 2009–March 14, 2010

In 1759, the young Josiah Wedgwood (1730–1795), who would become one of England's most famous potters, established his first factory at the Ivy House Works in Burslem, England. A Purer Taste of Forms and Ornaments: Josiah Wedgwood and the Antique celebrates the 250th anniversary of this vastly influential factory and its extraordinary founder. The early years of Wedgwood's factory coincided with the discovery of the ancient buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy and the subsequent emergence of the neoclassical style. One of the earliest manufacturers to embrace this style, Wedgwood was instrumental in establishing a taste for the antique that quickly found favor with an aristocratic English clientele. The exhibition features some twenty Wedgwood objects—including a monumental "Krater" vase, made in about 1790, from the Museum's collection—decorated in imitation of the red-figure vase painting of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Wedgwood attached such importance to this style of decoration that in 1769 he patented the encaustic process by which it was produced.

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Also on view is a copy of the publication Collection of Etruscan, Greek, and Roman Antiquities from the Cabinet of the Honourable William Hamilton, which documented the collection of Greek and Italian vases assembled by Hamilton, who served as British envoy to the King of the Two Sicilies. Wedgwood was deeply influenced by the catalogue, and it served as a source of inspiration at the Wedgwood factory for decades.

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Donna Corbin • Associate Curator of European Decorative Arts

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