Useful ornamental

Jasper sweetmeat basket, about 1790

Jasper sweetmeat basket, about 1790

Many of the 'ornamental' wares had uses also, including this single vase (see below) and sweetmeat basket. The three-colour vase has a pierced cover and a solid cover below it, both of them removable. It could be used for pot pourri, with the solid cover left in place when it was not required to scent the room. Containers for pot pourri and burners for scented pastilles were both popular products, presumably because standards of personal hygiene were not high.

The vase is of three-colour jasper, which may have been introduced about 1786. The basket has piercings made painstakingly by hand through the solid blue jasper. It is one of a pair in the collection. Baskets were often used in fours, piled high with fruit or confectionary, in the symmetrical setting of the table for dessert. It was the custom to use more fanciful and decorative tableware for dessert than for the main courses.

This pair of black and white jasper pots are for plants and have removable pierced grates. This design served equally well, however, for pedestals to support vases. Each of the four sides has a figure of a Cupid representing a different season.

The vases imitating bamboo show that the same shape was often made in different materials. The green and lilac versions are in jasper, but the most suitably coloured one is in caneware, a type of body which Wedgwood developed in the late 1770s. Lilac jasper, one of the less common colours, is particularly sought after by modern collectors. Wedgwood mentioned to Bentley that it was available in 1777.

The lilac wares shown here are not of solid jasper but jasper dip. It was expensive and usually unnecessary to colour right through the jasper body of a piece, and from about 1785 Wedgwood was able to achieve an even colour in most shades of jasper by applying a surface layer of the required tint to a white body.

Jasper teaware does not seem to have been much made before the death of Bentley in 1780. Its expensive nature made it especially popular for the little sets for one or two people known in the eighteenth century as 'dejeuners' and nowadays as 'cabaret' services. They were used particularly in ladies' dressing-rooms, and were an accepted vehicle for delicate extravagance. For wares of this kind Wedgwood realised that scenes from classical mythology would not be sufficiently informal and intimate. Domestic groups and scenes from popular novels like Laurence Sterne's 'A Sentimental Journey' and Goethe's 'The Sorrows of the Young Werther' were the answer.

Their designers were women: Lady Elizabeth Templetown (1747-1823), Miss Emma Crewe (active 1787 - 1818), and Lady Diana Beauclerk (1734-1808) who had been born Lady Diana Spencer and was an ancestress of Diana, Princess of Wales. These were Society ladies - Lady Templetown was one of the ladies of the Queen's Bed Chamber - and their drawings were translated into relief models by Wedgwood's resident modeller William Hackwood (1757-1839).