Collection and scholarship

Photo of Wedgwood black basalt ware
  • Wedgwood black basalt ware

The shapes and decoration of the Greek and Greek-style vases also influenced the porcelain and related manufactures of Europe. As factories were becoming established, large numbers of the ancient pottery were being discovered. Wedgwood is perhaps the best known, but Capadimonte, Sèvres, Fürstenburg and others, made expensive imitations of the antique for monarchs and aristocrats. These black basalt vases to the right, for example, selectively copying ancient shapes and decoration, were made by Wedgwood between 1769 and 1800.

Engraving by d'Hancarville
  • Engraving by H.P.F. d'Hancarville: c. 1776

Some modern vases were based on actual objects, but most were indirect imitations, often inspired by engravings and drawings, such as those in d'Hancarville's publication of Sir William Hamilton's collection. This engraving was taken from a later 5th century BC Athenian red-figure vase, shown below left, which the British Museum acquired.

In 1760 Josiah Wedgwood had called his new porcelain factory in central England 'Etruria,' partly because little was known about Greek pottery at the time, and partly because 'Etruscomania' was fashionable. This blue jasper ware urn, one of his most famous pieces, was made in 1786 and presented to the British Museum, becoming the first 'modern' vase in its collection. The figure-decoration was inspired by d'Hancarville's engraving.


Athenian red-figure calyx-crater
  • Athenian red-figure calyx-crater
The Pegasus Urn
  • The Pegasus Urn

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