Wedgwood's use of basalt
Basalt sphinx, about 1785
Basalt was used for interior decoration, both in the form of plaques imitating carving in relief, and in the round, imitating cast bronze figures. The dancer on the plaque is one of a series copying Roman paintings which had recently been unearthed at Herculaneum.
The Baroque pattern on the saddlecloth of the sphinx gives away the fact that the design comes from the court of Louis XIV, from some now lost sphinxes designed by Nicholas Coustou for the French château of Marly about 1700. The figure of the philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778) copies a sculpture by his close friend Joseph Rosset, who lived at St Claude in the Jura, not far from Voltaire's home at Fernay.
The statue known as the 'Zingara' (gipsy) was one of the most popular sights for tourists in 18th century Rome. It was a headless ancient Greek statue to which a new head, hands and feet of bronze were added about 1600. Wedgwood made a full-length version as well as the bust seen here.