English. Circa 1875.

The present chandelier is a rare example of a light mounted with high quality marked Wedgwood in the uncommon ground color of rosso antico. Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) is perhaps the most distinguished English potter, whose work spread throughout Europe and to the United States and Canada. Wedgwood was the youngest son in a family of potters of Burslem, Staffordshire. By 1749 he completed his apprenticeship with the family pottery works and went on to form partnerships with John Harrison and Thomas Alders at Cliff Bank, Stoke, between 1752 to 1754, and with Thomas Whieldon, another notable Staffordshire potter, from 1754-1759. In 1759, however, Wedgwood terminated this partnership in order to found his own pottery works.

Wedgwood built a large library of books on classical design of sculptures, pictures, and furniture representative of Grand Tour travels in Italy, and especially Rome. He based his pottery on such masterpieces, and when he “made a design taken from the Farnese Hercules or the Venus de Medici he knew that his customers appreciated and were familiar with the original.”

As another consequence of the newborn interest in classical antiquity, buildings subscribed to the Palladian ideal, and interiors were equally fitted. The great architect Robert Adam was responsible for many of these homes and for championing and classical ideal. Adam spent an extended Tour in Italy and, upon establishing his practice in England in 1758, began working in not only the classical Roman idiom, but that of ancient Greece.

Wedgwood was greatly influenced by Adam and the Etruscan style, going so far as to name his factory “Erturia.” He began interpreting those designs into pottery, at first directly using red figures in relief on black basalt background to simulate Etruscan vases, and developed a number of other stoneware bodies including jasper, black basalt, and rosso antico.  Bodies of rosso antico (antique red) could be further enhanced by the addition of black bas-relief decoration in the neoclassical style, as seen in the present chandelier.

His schemes were modeled to fall in line with the Adam style. “Architects and others used the jasper in every variety, both for internal and external purposes…[and] Wedgwood adapted his productions to the arts of the jeweler and the architect.” The wares, which were considered to be on par with porcelain for a time, ranged from dinner, tea and coffee ware to decorative objects such as vases and large decorative plaques, which could be incorporated into furniture and architectural elements.

The present chandelier is unusual in that the mounted vases are of rosso antico, rather than the more traditional blue and white jasper. An object of this type would most likely have been constructed specifically to fall in line with a particular Etruscan-style interior.

Wedgwood Stamp