• Explore the fascinating links between the Wedgwood brand and rulers from all corners and time periods of Europe.

Wedgwood and Royalty

  • by Carenza Price

Library bust of Marcus Aurelius

Theme

It wasn't just contemporary rulers that Wedgwood immortalised. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor, one of the so called 'Five Good Emperors' who ruled Rome through a golden age with wisdom and benevolence. In many ways, Marcus was an ideal emperor, a concept that 18th century minds enjoyed, especially due to the heightened interest in antiquities. Young gentlemen returning off their Grand Tours had seen collections of genuine Greek and Roman art and wanted replicas to fill their own houses with, an idea that spread through the upper classes leading to a growing demand for Etruscan-style pottery. A demand that Josiah Wedgwod was happy to meet with his relatively new black basalt body, perfect for replicating the ancient objects.

Roman emperors were of particular interest because busts and statues of them would have featured heavily in collections visited by men on thier Tours and many of the emperors displayed qualities that appealed to the upper classes. For example, Aurelius was a philospher and founded 4 chairs of philosophy in Athens, something that the educated nobility would admire. Wedgwood himself would have likely admired him as well, given his interests in the pursuit of knowledge.

Wedgwood may have also seen himself in Aurelius because both men were co rulers of sorts. At the time Wedgwood was in partnership with close friend Thomas Bentley and may have seen that relationshipo reflected in Marcus Aurelius and his adopted brother Lucius Verus who were co emperors. Both pairs were leaders and close friends who saw their empires grow and experience a golden age. Stamps of the two emperors also exist from around the same time, so Wedgwood was aware of their joint reign and potentially aware of their similar relationships.

Catalogue

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121-180) was a Roman Emperor remembered for his devotion to the Stoic Philosophy. Wedgwood produced two busts of Marcus Aurelius. Both figures were supplied by Hoskins and Grant in 1774.