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Design Influences and Inspiration - Architects, Antiquities Collectors, Sculptors

Page history last edited by CPetty 4 days, 21 hours ago

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Wedgwood was influenced by architects and antiquities collectors who traveled on their Grand Tour or had posts abroad and brought back to England their ideas and rare finds sparking the neoclassicism movement.  Antiquities were collected from the lost cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and documented in several texts Wedgwood scoured for design inspiration.  Not only were the texts with numerous illustrations and etchings used for inspiration, but also plaster casts of famous sculptural works from earlier centuries were used by Wedgwood to expand his manufacturing output.



  • Robert Adam (1728-1792) was known for the classical interpretation he applied to his architectural creations. He spent four years traveling throughout Italy where he observed Roman antiquity and brought these design elements back to England. He and his brother James Adam (1730-1794) published The Works of Architecture of Robert and James Adam: Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3 
    • Wedgwood was eager to hire away any former employee of the Adam's firm including John Voyez who eventually stole from Wedgwood and went to work for Wedgwood's competitor, Humphrey Palmer.

  • James "Athenian" Stuart (1713-1788) pioneering neoclassicism is also known for his publication, The Antiquities of Athens (1762) recording classical Greek architecture which became a sourcebook for many sculptors. Stuart is known for reviving the tripod form emulated in the Wedgwood vase below.


Wedgwood. Tripod Vase, circa 1790-1800, stoneware

(black basalt). collection of Jeffrey s. Milkins and Steven R. Parker 


  • The designer of the temples and gardens at Kew in London as well as eventually rising to the ranks of Royal Architect thanks to his good friend the Prince of Wales, Sir William Chambers (1723-1796) was an admirer of the Italian Masters. His well-known Treatise on Civil Architecture influenced Wedgwood's designs.


Antiquities Collectors 

Volume 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Volume 4

    • An additional publication memorializing Sir William Hamilton's collection (below) and seen hereshows an illustration reproduced on Wedgwood's vase. 




Wedgwood's Covered Vase  The Townley Vase 

Wedgwood. Covered Vase, 1769-80, stoneware (black basalt).

Museum Purchase: Delhom Collection. 1965.48.757A-B.

collection of The Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC 

The Townley Vase, 2ndC, marble.

Museum Purchase:


collection of The British Museum 


  • Sir Watkin Williams Wynn (1749-1789) brought vases home from his travels on his Grand Tours.

  • The Marquess of Lansdowne, William Petty Fitzmaurice (1737-1805) lent Wedgwood the series of Herculaneum Dancers based on wall-paintings at Herculaneum as well as plaster reliefs he was able to mold to make medallions.         

  • Sir Roger Newdigate (1719-1806) invited Wedgwood to take casts from a whole series of relief-molded designs.

  • Le Antichità di Ercolano Esposte (Antiquities of Herculaneum Exposed), a series of eight volumes illustrating the paintings and artwork found in the lost cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, were considered of great importance to Wedgwood.


More About the Lost City of Pompeii (3min)    More About Herculaneum (60min)    



16th Century Sculptors


17th Century Sculptors & Etchers 

  •  Gian Lorenzo Bernini's (1598-1680) model for the Fountain of the Moor is the source for Wedgwood's sculpture. Learn more in the video below.


    Wedgwood's Triton Candle Holders 
More About Bernini's work and technique (8 min)

    Wedgwood. Triton Candle Holders, 1770-80, stoneware (black basalt). Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; The Buten Wedgwood Collection, gift through the Wedgwood Society of New York, AFI.414.2008 and AFI.451.2008




Wedgwood & Bentley. Somnus, circa 1774, stoneware (black basalt).

Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art;

The Buten Wedgwood Collection, gift through

the Wedgwood Society of New York, AFI.1239.2008 



Digital Resources



Created by Christina Petty, LIS Graduate Student





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