vase (copy of Portland vase)

Creation date
10 in.
Credit line
Ann McClelland Ropkey Decorative Arts Fund
Accession number
Currently On View In
Patrick O'Riley and Elizabeth Gilbert Fortune Gallery - H205
Possibly Lord Rodney. Frederick Rathbone. Vernon Roberts, Dalpowie House, Dunkeld; W.A.H. Harding; sale at (Christie's, London) in 1983;{1} Rosalind Pretzfelder, New York; purchased by the Indianapolis Museum of Art through (Peter Williams, Cheshire) in 1994 (1994.2).
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Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

One of the most celebrated objects created by Josiah Wedgwood, this vessel copies an ancient Roman work called the Portland Vase. For four years Wedgwood attempted to duplicate precisely, in ceramic form, the beauty and translucency of the ancient cameo-glass original, which he borrowed from the collection of the duke of Portland. The result was one of Wedgwood's greatest achievements, and through the process, he perfected jasper, a fine white stoneware that became one of his manufactory's signature wares.

The IMA's copy of the Portland Vase was potted between 1791 and 1796, during Josiah's lifetime. None of the copies created during this period carries the Wedgwood mark; the exact number produced is believed to be fewer than fifty. Subsequent editions were made by the Wedgwood firm into the 19th century, but they lack the refined finish of those made under Josiah's supervision.

The original Portland Vase, created between 30 and 20 BCE, may have belonged to the Emperor Augustus. There are several theories regarding the scenes it depicts; the one most scholars accept is that one side represents the birth of Augustus and the other portrays the birth of Paris.

My great work is the Portland Vase. I have now finished a third and last edition of the figures, the first two being suppressed in hopes of making the third still more perfect.
-Josiah Wedgwood, 1787