Jasperware

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On display on level 1 at the Queen Victoria Art Gallery from 23 August 2018.

Developed by master potter Josiah Wedgwood, Jasperware remains the most recognisable and iconic ceramic made by Wedgwood. With its distinctive unglazed finish and signature relief design, Jasperware was a unique innovation in stoneware in the 1770s. Its method of manufacture remains unchanged more than 200 years later. The iconic pale blue jasper gave rise to the expression ‘Wedgwood Blue’, which remains the indelible signature of Wedgwood globally.

The early development of the aesthetic appearance of Jasperware is linked to the Portland Vase, a Roman cameo glass vase dating back to circa 1-25 CE. The cameo design for the Portland Vase was created by carving away a thin outer layer of white glass to reveal a relief of  neoclassical scenes on an almost black inner layer of glass.

In 1790 Josiah Wedgwood was able to borrow the Portland Vase.  He invested three years performing trials and experiments to perfect a ceramic copy from black basalt jasper clay with a white jasper relief. The creation of the Wedgwood Portland Vase was an important moment in the history of Jasperware. Now incorporated into the branding for Wedgwood, it has become a symbol for Josiah Wedgwood’s passion and commitment to ceramic innovation and quality. 

Although Jasperware is known for its most commonly used pale blue and white design, Josiah Wedgwood’s experimentation with different oxides and stains resulted in a  literal rainbow of possible Jasperware colours. For over 200 years Wedgwood has  created a vast range of ornamental plates, vases and utilitarian objects in an endless combination of coloured base ceramic and applied relief.

There has been a strong Australian connection to Wedgwood dating back to the 1780s,  with jasper clay bodies developed from clay at Sydney Cove sent to Josiah Wedgwood by his friend Joseph Banks. Two hundred years later Wedgwood Jasperware has continued  its link to Australia with beautiful flora, fauna, landscape and commemorative pieces in an array of colour combinations. 

THE EVELYN PEACOCK COLLECTION
More than two-thirds of this display of Jasperware represents a facet of the extensive collection of Wedgwood Jasperware on loan from QVMAG volunteer Evelyn Peacock. The first piece collected by Evelyn was a coffee can and saucer in the signature blue and white jasper. From there Evelyn’s collection evolved into a passion for the rare, unique and beautiful forms  in jasper in all its colour combinations. Evelyn’s collection of Jasperware is an excellent  example of a dedicated and researched private collection. Its concentrated focus, when combined with pieces from QVMAG’s ceramic collection, provide an opportunity for a broader conversation about the history of decorative arts.