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Jasper portrait plaque of Dr Joseph Priestley, made by Josiah Wedgwood I and Thomas Bentley

 

Length: 11.500 inches

Gift of Sir A.W. Franks

M&ME Pottery Catalogue I 66

Room 46: Europe 1400-1800

    Jasper portrait plaque of Dr Joseph Priestley, made by Josiah Wedgwood I and Thomas Bentley

    Etruria factory, Staffordshire, England, AD 1779

    Made from a model by Giuseppe Cerrachi (1751-1801)

    Dr Priestley (1733-1804) was a nonconformist minister and scientist, who took up the study of chemistry. He was a pioneer in the chemistry of gases, and one of the discoverers of oxygen. He published a history of electricity, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1766. Priestley aroused controversy with his various publications on religious matters, and was condemned as an atheist. As a consequence of his support for the French Revolution, his house in Birmingham was burned down by a mob in July 1791, destroying his library, papers and scientific apparatus. Not long afterwards he emigrated to America.

    The partnership of Josiah Wedgwood I (1730-95) and Thomas Bentley (1730-80) manufactured a series of large-scale portrait plaques of eminent men. They included renowned scientists, doctors and statesmen of the time. The series were produced in pairs, and Priestley's pair was the great mathematician Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727). Wedgwood and Priestley probably first met in the 1760s through Wedgwood's partner Thomas Bentley. Wedgwood contributed towards Priestley's experimental work and in the 1780s supplied him with laboratory equipment in his new composition.

    A. Dawson, Masterpieces of Wedgwood in th, 2nd ed. (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

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