The Chitra Collection: British and European Pottery and Stoneware

This black basalt teapot was made by Wedgwood in 1780. Black basalt is a hard, black, vitreous stoneware named after the volcanic rock basalt. It is made from reddish-brown clay with magnesium added, which causes the clay to turn black during firing. It was used by Wedgwood from around 1768. Wedgwood’s black basalt wares were inspired by antique originals, and in particular by many vases found in Sir William Hamilton’s collection, which was famous at the time. The pot above is crafted in a round form with a parapet lip and the finial in the form of a seated female figure, the Sybil, the Greeks believed to be an oracle. An engine-turning lathe that Wedgwood introduced to the Staffordshire potteries in 1763 achieved the basketweave effect on the body, handle, and spout . This earthenware “Fortune Teller” teapot by William Greatbatch was made in Staffordshire circa 1775. Greatbatch was known as one of the best designers and makers of potter’s moulds in Staffordshire and often supplied block moulds to Josiah Wedgwood. “Fortune Teller” is one of his best-known designs, and demonstrates a whimsical approach to the decoration of tea wares whilst alluding to the mystical and astrological practice of reading tea leaves. On one side of the pot, a woman receives a piece of paper on which is written “husband”; on the other side, another woman is told she will “never marry.” On the back of the pot is a fortune teller’s chart showing the 12 houses of heaven flanked on the left by the Ptolomean Sphere (Ptolemy’s classical model for the movement of the sun, planets, and stars around the earth) and on the right by the Copernican System (Copernicus’s Renaissance model in which the earth revolves around the sun). By revealing the astrological chart to anyone using the pot, the tea maker becomes the fortune teller.
This 19th-century jasperware teapot was made by Wedgwood. Jasperware, developed by Josiah Wedgwood in the 1770s, has a matte, unglazed “biscuit” finish. Wedgwood made jasper wares in a number of colors—ranging from pale blue (known as Wedgwood blue), dark blue, lilac, sage green, black, and yellow—by adding different metallic oxides to the clay. Some people describe it as a type of porcelain, but it is more often described as a stoneware. Wedgwood typically added figures and designs in white relief, often in Greek classical style. By the time of Josiah’s death in 1795, jasperware was at the height of its popularity.

In Poland, a number of faience factories were established after 1730 under the authority of Frederick the Great, and cream-wares were produced during the 1780s. Lithuania opened a creamware factory in 1780 and produced neoclassical-style tablewares. And in Russia, Catherine the Great started a fashion for all forms of English pottery, particularly creamwares, when she ordered The Frog Service, a 952-piece creamware dinner service, from Wedgwood in 1773. By 1796, Andrei Bolotov, the prolific Russian diarist and memorist, wrote that many people had begun “buying, and filling their homes with English faience crockery.” In the late-18th century, several English potteries were manufacturing items specifically for the Russian market, and Russian factories then started imitating the English pieces. Salt-glazed stonewares and creamwares were produced at the Kiev-Mezhegorsky factory overseen by the Emperor’s Chancellery and at several private factories, including that of Sergei Poskochin, founded in 1817 and active until 1887.

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