The Introduction of Jasper

The development by Wedgwood of his new and revolutionary jasper body was one of which he was justifiably proud. In 1776, works of art in jasper were very much at the “infancy” stage of development. However, Hackwood was entrusted with one of the earliest tablets, or plaques, in jasper which originated at the Etruria factory. On January 6, 1776, Wedgwood wrote,

“Hackwood has nearly finish’d the two Tablets of the birth & Triumph of Bacchus, but I am afraid that we shall not be able to make either of them in one continued Tablet so – We could make them to fill a Frise very cleverly in separate pieces . . . .”

Six weeks later Wedgwood informed Bentley, “The Birth of Bacchus, & 6 Figures in his Suite will at once shew you the state of Hackwoods Modeling. And the largest piece of Jasper we have yet made. We have now in the Oven a larger Piece – The Triumph of Bacchus . . . .”

The perceived value of these triumphs in the new jasper body was reflected in their prices. In a letter dated March 10 of the same year, Wedgwood wrote to Bentley, who was responsible for selling the firm’s wares in the London showroom,

“The Birth of Bacchus will be quite cheap of 36/s The modelling of these things, so highly finish’d as ours are, is very expensive, besides all the risques in these delicate articles.”

The “risques” referred to by Wedgwood relate of course to the high losses sustained during the firing of such new and novel products as jasper tablets.

At this time Hackwood was employed in diverse modelling projects. Within the course of three months he went from large-size tablets back to the production of cameos for bracelets. In a further letter from Wedgwood to Bentley dated July 2, 1776, Wedgwood observed that the factory could

“. . . make several other very pretty large Cameos for this purpose, & for Bracelets if we had half a dozn. more Hackwoods – As it is, we have as much modelling, & repairing, absolutely upon the stocks, as will last Hackwood & Bedson near two years, without anything farther . . . .”

A letter of October 27, 1777, reveals, “Hackwood has more necessary work before him in repairing & raising good bass-reliefs, which now lie useless amongst our stores. Thickening seals for polishing &c &c. than he can go thro’ in 12 months without putting him to any original modelling. These things he does admirably & is the most usefully employ’d in them.”

Images

The Birth of Bacchus, © Wedgwood Museum

The Birth of Bacchus
© Wedgwood Museum