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Pâte-sur-pâte banjo vase - 1878

Pâte-sur-pâte vase, ©  Wedgwood Museum
    Pâte-sur-pâte vase
    © Wedgwood Museum

Produced circa 1880, The banjo vases with their Japanese appearance are characteristic of Frederick Rhead’s love of Japonisme which lends itself so well to the technique of pâte-sur-pâte. This term means quite literally paste upon paste and refers to the slow building up layer by layer of slip or dilute clay allowing for the creation of delicate and translucent decoration.

Literally translated as paste upon paste, pâte-sur-pâte is surely one of the most laborious ceramic techniques and yet it produces the most delicate and visually pleasing effects of Victorian pottery. Introduced to Stoke-on-Trent by Louis Solon of Minton, formerly of Sèvres, it involves the building up, layer upon layer of slip or liquid clay to create a design on the surface of a ceramic article. This vase is one of a pair. The banjo vases are almost certainly an example of one of Wedgwood’s most talented artists, Frederick Rhead, himself a pupil of Solon. Joining Thomas Allen’s design studio in 1878, Rhead’s work was shown at the international exhibition in Paris that year. He shows a clear love of Japonisme which is so well suited to this technique since it permits the maximum use of translucency. The flat-sided shape itself harks back to the ‘satsuma’ shape. Sadly Rhead stayed at Wedgwood only for approximately three years despite the offer of a weekly wage of three pounds.

  • Type of object: Ornamental ware/vase
  • Mark: WEDGWOOD
  • Year produced: 1878
  • Body: parian
  • Material: ceramic
  • Decoration: pâte-sur-pâte
  • Accession number: 9599
  • Dimensions: 295 mm (height), 190 mm (width), 58 mm (depth)

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  • Frederick Rhead Artist

    Frederick Rhead - Artist (1856 - 1933)

    Rhead joined Wedgwood in 1877 after an apprenticeship with Louis Solon at Minton during which time he perfected the art of pâte-sur-pâte. This laborious technique of placing layer upon layer of slip produced arguably the most beautiful and delicate art wares of the Victorian era. Shortly after Rhead’s departure from Minton, Wedgwood was informed that he had in fact been dismissed over a petty charge involving the theft of a small amount of colour from the factory. However, Thomas Allen, in whose studio he worked, came to his defence and Rhead remained with Wedgwood for some years. He is attributed with a number of pieces especially designed for the Paris exhibition of 1878.


  • Pâte-sur-Pâte


    Pâte-sur-Pâte is a French term meaning 'paste on paste'. It was a technique developed almost by accident at the Sevres factory in the 1850's. They were trying to reproduce the decorating technique used by Chinese potters on an ancient vase, but the experiments took them, by luck or fate, down a route which ended in what is now known as Pâte-sur-Pâte.

    It is a method of ceramic decoration in which a relief design is created on an unfired, unglazed body by applying successive layers of white 'slip' (liquid clay) with a brush. It is similar to other types of relief decoration such as Jasper, but no moulds are normally used. Translucency is also achieved.

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