Portrait Medallion blue dip jasper with white relief of Admiral Keppel - no date
Augustus, Viscount Keppel, English Admiral, and First Lord of the Admiralty
Augustus Viscount Keppel (1725-1786) was a successful Admiral within the British Royal Navy during the 18th century. His popularity was so much so that Thomas Bentley's failiure to provide Josiah with a mould with which to make ceramic portraits of the Admiral caused Josiah to write to Bentley stating 'I am persuaded if we had had our wits about us as we ought to have had 2 or 3 months ago since we might have sold £1000 worth of this gentleman's head in various ways.' So was the fashion for portrait medallions of the rich and famous with the public in the late 18th century.
- Type of object: Plaques and medallions/portrait medallion
- Mark: WEDGWOOD & BENTLEY
[IMP on obverse]
- Year produced: no date
- Body: Jasper
- Material: ceramic
- Decoration: dipped
- Accession number: 5124
Admiral Keppel - 1st Viscount Keppel
Admiral Keppel - 1st Viscount Keppel - Subject (1725 - 1786)
Augustus Keppel was an officer in the Royal Navy achieving the rank of Admiral during the Seven Years War and the War of American of Independence, during the later years of which he served as the First Lord of the Admiralty. He was Member of Parliament for Chichester from 1775 to 1761, and subsequently Windsor and later Surrey. Augustus was raised to the Peerage in 1782 as Viscount Keppel. He died - unmarried - in 1786.
A medallion, either circular or oval, made usually from Black Basalt or jasper, which features a head or head and shoulders study, rather than a relief of a classical nature.
A fine-grained stoneware body developed by Josiah Wedgwood I in the mid 1770s, and the ceramic ware most associated with the name. The most famous colour combination known today is the traditional blue and white, which is usually decorated with classical bas reliefs.
With changes in architectural styles and the rise in popularity of neo-classical styles of interior decoration Josiah Wedgwood began a series of experiments to create a new ceramic material that would complement the new fashions. Thousands of meticulously recorded experiments were carried out to make a stoneware body that was capable of taking a mineral oxide stain throughout. The search for the jasper body absorbed much of Wedgwood's energy and time, the result being his most important contribution to ceramic history.
The majority of the actual trials were carried out between December 1772 and December 1774, Josiah writing on the 17 March of the latter year: ‘have for some time past been reviewing my experiments, & I find such Roots, such Seeds as would open & branch out wonderfully if I could nail myself down to the cultivation of them for a year or two'.
By January 1775 he was ‘absolute' in the production of jasper with coloured grounds. He was also in a position to advertise that he could manufacture bas reliefs, ranging from large plaques to small cameos for mounting as jewellery. The range of colours steadily increased, and by March 1776 Josiah was sending his first specimens of yellow to London. By September experiments were in hand for black jasper. Certainly by Spring of 1777 he was carrying out further experiments to perfect a surface ‘dip' to provide deeper coloured grounds for his cameos; and by the middle of December 1777, he was able to offer Bentley a choice of ‘Green - yellow - lalock [lilac] etc. to the colour of the rooms', referring to the tones favoured by their mutual acquaintance the architect Robert Adam.
A layer applied to the surface of the white jasper body using coloured slip - as opposed to a ‘solid' jasper body where the same colour permeates throughout the entire ceramic medium.