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Wedgwood listed over two thousand designs including subjects from Egyptian, Greek, and Roman history, mythology, masks, chimeras, figures, and heads. The relief was moulded separately and so carefully applied that it is often flawless under a magnifying glass.
I inherited over 300 Antique Wedgwood Cameos from my mother. There are about 70 unique bas-relief designs in this collection so there are many repeats which leads me to believe that these cameos were originally purchased from Wedgwood wholesale as "trade stock" destined to be incorporated into furniture or jewellery. The collection was featured in the UK on BBC Television 'Antiques Roadshow' from Bolton Abbey in September 2008. You can watch the clip at http:// www. alecwood.me.uk/AntiquesRoadshow.wmv [type it into your browser without any spaces - i.e. missing out the spaces after the // and the www.] The clip includes comments and valuation advice from expert Lars Tharp.
One of the chief uses of Wedgwood cameos was to form collections of mythological and historical subjects and Wedgwood's 1779 Sales Catalogue refers specifically to this.
Whilst sorting through the 300 plus cameos I discovered that there were not many readily available, reliable, and inexpensive, sources from which to identify the bas-relief subject, its mythology and history, or the original artist. I therefore arranged visits to University Archives, the Wedgwood Museum Barlaston, the Lady Lever Art Gallery, and purchased reference books etc. I put together the results of my research in a catalogue of the 70 different designs in my collection. During this research I identified over 100 other different bas-relief designs and I collected pictures and details of these in Research Notes. It is not practical to incorporate all 170+ photos and details in an ebay Guide such as this because each Guide is restricted to 10 pictures and about 4000 words so I have produced a fuller guide - if you are interested please see my "items for sale list".
Here are details of some of the more common Wedgwood bas-relief designs:
Hope and the Anchor
Identified as "Hope and the Anchor". It is noticable however that the actual figure used by Wedgwood in this version of "Hope" is the same as used for Polymnia the Muse of hymn - the column being replaced with an anchor. This version was used on gems and small cameos used in jewellery.
Mythology: If Hope had escaped when Pandora's box was opened letting loose all the evils in the world - greed, vanity, slander, envy, pining - then no resources would have been left to man against the calamities of life. The anchor, because of its great importance in navigation, was regarded in ancient times as a symbol of safety and has been adopted as a symbol of hope.
This design believed to be by James Tassie the most prolific collector and merchant of impressions of classical gems of the eighteenth century.
Hope and Anchor (Second Version)
This is one of the very nicest versions of "Hope and Anchor" shown alongside two nicely detailed complementary pieces usually catalogued as "Classical figure with Lyre" but identified as Terpischore in handwritten notes in 1913 by Isaac Cook, Wedgwood Museum Eturia's first Curator.
These would make a lovely pendant and earrings. Modeller and date unknown.
Yet another version of Hope and Anchor shown below is attributed to William Hackwood, c. 1773 and is illustrated in the "Book of Wedgwood Bas-reliefs" now out of print but available for viewing on the Official Wedgwood Museum Website.
Below are three of the 70 bas-relief designs from my collection:
Bellerophon watering Pegasus
Mythology: Pegasus, the winged horse, led by Bellerophon before attacking the three-headed monster Chimaera. Attacking Chimaera from the air put him at an advantage over other men that died trying.
Bellerophon watering Pegasus attributed to William Hackwood, c. 1773. Also two small complementary earring size pieces a “Classical figure” Mercury - this particular design not believed to be associated with any particular mythological story.
Priam begging the Body of Hector
Mythology: During the Trojan War, Priam's son Hector was killed by the Greek hero Achilles. In one of the most moving scenes of the Iliad, Priam courageously entered the Greek camp by night and pleaded with Achilles to return Hector's body for burial. This design shows Achilles seated on the left and before him kneels the aged Priam who is kissing the right hand of Achilles.
Probably based on an eighteenth century gem, a sardonyx, representing the group of Priam and Achilles and adapted from a similar sarcophagus in the Louvre. Attributed to John Flaxman, Pacetti and others, c. 1789.
Venus disarming Cupid
Mythology: Venus taking away the bow and arrows from her irresponsible son, Cupid .
Some versions have Venus’s knees and legs covered and some do not. Modeller and date unknown
Some of the thumbnails are shown below:
Aesculaplus (Asclepius) and Hygeia
The figure of Aesculaplus, or Moses, was very popular in Wedgwood ware. Here he is seen holding his serpent-entwined staff and with his daughter Hygeia who carries an olive branch in her right hand.
Possibly based on a an engraving by Bernard de Montfaucon, in L'antiquité expliquée et représentée en figures. Modeller and date unknown
Venus and Cupid (also known as ‘Night’ from 1773)
‘Aphrodite carrying flower of fertility, preceded by an eros’
Design based on an engraving by Bernard de Montfaucon, in L'antiquité expliquée et représentée en figures published between 1719 and 1724. Modeller and date unknown
When Andromache’s husband Hector was killed during the Trojan war she was taken by Neoptolemus as a concubine. On his death she married Hector’s brother Helenus, who had been taken captive and enslaved with her, and became Queen of Epirus. Andromache eventually went to live with Pergamus in Pergamum, where she died of old age.
Modeller and date unknown
You will find the following books give masses of background information:
Michael Herman, "Wedgwood Jasper Ware", Schiffer, ISBN: 0764319264 - Jasperware pottery shapes
Carol Macht, "Classical Wedgwood Designs", Gramercy 1957 - Sources of the bas-reliefs
A R Hope Moncrieff "Illustrated Guide to Classical Mythology", Studio ISBN: 1851708782
N Hudson Moore, "Wedgwood and his Imitators", Hodder & Stoughton ISBN: 1408697149
Robin Reilly, "Wedgwood Jasper", Charles Letts 1972, SBN 850970474 - general information
Robin Reilly, "Wedgwood: The New Illustrated Dictionary", Woodbridge ISBN: 1851492097
"The Book of Wedgwood Bas-reliefs", Wedgwood Museum Barlaston - lots of bas-relief photos and details
There is also useful background information in the online version of Robin Emmerson's book "Wedgwood at the Lady Lever Art Gallery" published by National Museums Liverpool in 1995 and available at:
h t t p : / / w w w.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ladylever/collections/wedgwood/ (if you copy this remove all the spaces between h t t p : / / w w w)
Information on Wedgwood can be found at:
h t t p : / / w w w.wedgwoodmuseum.org.uk/
If you have found any of the information in this Guide interesting you might like my full Wedgwood Jasper Bas-relief Guide. This consists of 49 pages of photos and details covering over 170 different neo-classical bas-relief designs - if you are interested please see my "items for sale list". Any small profit made from it will be used to fund further research. If you have a bas-relief you would like identifying, or want to know where to find other specific information, please contact me through ebay by going to "view items for sale by this member" and then from any listing click "ask seller a question" OR "Email the seller".
If you have found this interesting / useful please click the YES button below - thank you for taking the time to read this short guide - enjoy your Wedgwood.