The Great Court of the British Museum, £9.99
Height: 26.600 cm
Gift of Sir A.W. Franks
M&ME Pottery Catalogue I 67
Room 47: Europe 1800-1900
Jasper ware portrait plaque of Sir William Hamilton, by Josiah Wedgwood I and Thomas Bentley
Etruria factory, Staffordshire, England, AD 1779
Sir William Hamilton (1730-1803) was the British Envoy to the Kingdom of Naples and the Two Sicilies from 1764 to 1798. He was a renowned collector of antiquities and a student of the natural world: his fascination with classical art had considerable influence on artistic life in Britain in the eighteenth century. His collection of antiquities included objects from the recently excavated ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, which he published. The first part of his collection was offered to the British Parliament for sale in 1772, and entered the collections of the British Museum for the then outstanding sum of £8,400. The British Museum subsequently received generous gifts of antiquities from Hamilton.
The partnership of Josiah Wedgwood I (1730-95) and Thomas Bentley (1730-80) was particularly influenced by Hamilton's collections of Etruscan vases, and profited greatly from the production of vases in the antique manner, many in black basalt painted to imitate classical originals. A series of large-scale portrait plaques of eminent men was produced by the partnership, which included renowned scientists, doctors and statesmen of the time. Plaques in the series were produced in pairs, and Hamilton's pair was the Comte de Caylus (1692-1765), another celebrated antiquary and collector.
The plaque is
I. Jenkins and K. Sloan, Vases and Volcanoes: Sir Willi (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)
A. Dawson, Masterpieces of Wedgwood in th, 2nd ed. (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)
P.F.H. D'Hancarville, Antiquités Etrusques, Grecqu-1, 4 vols. (Naples, 1767-76)