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  • by the Wedgwood Museum team

Portrait medallion of Carolus Linnaeus


In the eighteenth century Josiah I produced a vast range of portrait medallions in both black basalt and jasper, which portrayed subjects ranging from Popes through to Roman Emperors, from Greek Philosophers through to ‘Illustrious Moderns’. Many of the subjects available during Josiah’s lifetime were listed in his Ornamental Catalogues, and many of the portrait medallion subjects were modelled by famous artists of the day including John Flaxman junior and in-house artist, William Hackwood.

Carolus Linnaeus, botanist and natural historian, was born in Sweden, and educated at Lund, and the University of Upsala. He became Professor of Medicine and Botany at Upsala at the age of thirty-four. He travelled widely in order to study minerals, but his most valuable contribution to society was the system of classification he introduced for naturalists, which resulted in definitions of genera and species, and a uniform system of naming plants according to their nature. The portrait medallion of Linnaeus shows him with a plant, signifying his naturalist connections.

On 19th January 1775 John Flaxman junior submitted on behalf of his father, Flaxman senior, a bill for ‘Moulding and making a cast from a Medall [sic] of Lennaeus [sic]. Mending a wax medal and making a Mould from it.’ The sum of two shillings was charged for the work. There is no record of the portrait medallion subject being produced in jasper until April 1777, but there may have been earlier versions made in black basalt. This particular jasper medallion is an experimental version.


Linnaeus was a noted natural historian and botanist. He came to prominence through his work devising a classification system for plants that is still in use today. As a noted person of the time he was an apt candidate to be featured on a Wedgwood portrait medallion.This jasper medallion was an experimental version, and features Linnaeus with a plant to his botanical connections.