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Height: 13.600 cm (including
Width: 21.800 cm (including handles)
Enlightenment: Art and Civilization
Pair of vases painted in the encaustic technique
The shape of these vases imitates the ancient
Greek kantharos, a type
of goblet used as a drinking cup. The hand-painted acanthus and
husk decoration is based on motifs found on Greek vases in the
The vases are made of 'black basalt', a fine-grained stoneware perfected by Josiah Wedgwood I (1730-95) in the 1760s. Wedgwood marketed products in this style as the 'Etruscan' range and then as 'basalt' ware in the first factory catalogue of 1773. The Wedgwood factory produced ornamental objects in this range, including vases, plaques, busts, medallions and cameos and intaglios, usually decorated in the classical style and highly polished.
Wedgwood's patent for the encaustic decorative technique seen on these vases dates from November 1769. The process involved painting in matt colours onto the fired basalt body, usually to imitate Greek red-figured vases. To achieve the 'Etruscan colours' that the 1773 catalogue describes, the fluxing agent was omitted so that the colours were 'burnt in, smooth and durable but without any glassy lustre'.