Regarded as the greatest English potter of his century, Josiah Wedgwood (1730-95) opened his factory in Burslem, Staffordshire, in 1759. What marked his progress towards ever-increasing success was a process of ceaseless technical and stylistic experimentation. He was tireless in developing new ceramic bodies and was responsible for introducing the neoclassical style into English ceramics.
Wedgwood' s most important contribution to ceramics was jasper which he introduced in 1775. A result of about 3000 trials in the search for a ceramic material that would best fit the new style, jasper was a dense white stoneware ideal for his decorative objects inspired by the classical art of ancient Greece and Rome. Named after the gemstone of the same name, jasper was easy to mould and decorate and could be stained by metal oxides in many colours. It was blue jasper however, that soon became synonymous with the name Wedgwood.
Although Wedgwood employed talented artists to design many of his vases, the white jasper bas-relief (low relief) decoration applied to this example derives from a design by the French painter Charles Le Brun (1629-90). The vase is decorated with two designs after Le Brun: one side features 'Venus in her chariot drawn by swans', while the other shows 'Cupids watering the swans'. It was made in about 1790. Venus, the Roman goddess identified with the Greek Aphrodite, the goddess of love and fertility, was the subject of Wedgwood's many figures and decorative reliefs applied to his vases and panels.
Eva Czernis-Ry, Curatorl