The Wedgwood Museum, like many other museums in the country, is wonderfully supported by our dedicated and passionate volunteers. Alastair Guy, who has volunteered at the museum for a number of years, provides an insight into his current project on Wedgwood and Egypt.
When I was asked to produce a virtual trail on the subject of Wedgwood and Egypt I wondered what could a pottery company from Staffordshire have in common with the land of Cleopatra and the battle of the Nile? As it turns out, quite a lot. From tea cups to inkwells to jewellery, Wedgwood and Eqypt have a long and decorative history together.
The first step in creating the trail was selecting the objects which would be included, not only from our gallery but also from our vast archives. The Egypt inspired objects on display in the gallery are spectacular, but in some ways the objects from our archives are more so, as the stories behind them are fascinating.
After I had selected the objects, the more interesting task of cleaning, photographing, researching, documenting and presentating the objects lay ahead. The first object I selected was a Wedgwood Rosso Antico black on red cup (acc.no 1324), glazed on the inside so it could be used and washed. As this item dated from 1790-99 it was in need of a bit of tender loving care and attention. Because of the age of the piece it would be unwise to use any soaps, so warm water and a lot of cotton buds were used in the cleaning process. However removing two hundred years of accumulated dust only uncovered two hundred years of dirt.
The second object I selected was a black on Rosso Antico vase (acc. No 1334). This also features a Hieroglyphic design to the rim and basket weave decoration to the base. Interestingly on its pedestal there is a Greek Key design, showing the artistic licence of the designers. Signs of damage at the side suggested the object may have had handles in the style of a Roman urn.
Both of these items are black on Rosso because this colour combination was most associated with Egyptian design during this period. Both objects have French customs labels of the period on the bases.This in itself is a remarkable piece of providence given the political climate between Britain and France at this time, as Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt was still ongoing.