Black basalt, 30.9 x dia. 14.4cm
Accession Number LL1148

Black basalt vase, Josiah Wedgwood

Wedgwood patented the matt, fired colours that he named ‘encaustic’, which he used on black basalt to imitate Greek red-figure vase painting. An attempt to prosecute his competitor Humphrey Palmer for infringing his patent was, however, unsuccessful.

The technique was used on the ‘First Day’s vases’, which Josiah made on the wheel on the first day of production at the Etruria factory in Staffordshire in 1769. It was quite different from the ancient ‘encaustic’ painting technique described by the Roman writer Pliny. However, since there was some controversy about this in Wedgwood’s time, he chose it as a stylish brand name.