A masterpiece of the potter’s art from the Wedgwood factory
The body of the vase is made of pale blue jasper, and the relief decoration, handles and Pegasus are of white jasper. Jasper is a type of unglazed stoneware that can be stained with color before firing. Josiah Wedgwood (1730–95) perfected the technique by 1775 after a number of experiments to produce a new clay body for the making of gems.
Wedgwood made a number of examples of the Pegasus Vase in jasper ware and in black basalt. This example that can be firmly dated to the eighteenth century. With the sharp relief decoration set against the smooth surface, the vase is a masterpiece of the potter’s art, and Wedgwood took great pride in presenting it to the British Museum in 1786.
The decoration of the vase was modeled for Wedgwood by the artist John Flaxman junior (1755–1826). Flaxman adapted a variety of classical sources; the figures in the main scene are based on an engraving of a Greek vase of the fourth century B.C.E., while the Medusa heads at the base of the handles are taken from an engraving of an antique sandal.
© The Trustees of the British Museum
A. Dawson, Masterpieces of Wedgwood in the British Museum, 2nd ed. (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)