English creamware neoclassical-style vase (missing its original conical lid) with a narrow neck, globular body, and tapered pedestal on a circular base; and the body sprigged with applied decoration of lion masks holding swags of flowers in their mouths, and a band of gadrooning around the collar on the pedestal and base rim. The vase is unmarked, but is attributed to the Wedgwood factory (1759-Present). Enoch Booth (c.1703-1773) of Tunstall, England, originally developed the fine, light-colored earthenware now known as creamware in the early 1740s using the various improvements in body, glaze, and firing; but it was Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) who perfected and successfully marketed the ceramic body. Wedgwood’s version of creamware resulted from many experiments with white clays and improved glazes; by 1762, he had developed a light, sturdy, refined, and yet inexpensive cream-colored earthenware body. Wedgwood described the new product as "a species of earthenware for the table, quite new in appearance, covered with rich and brilliant glaze, bearing sudden alterations of heat and cold, manufactured with ease and expedition, and consequently cheap." In the late 1760s Josiah Wedgwood was experimenting with the creation of ornamental vases in creamware. He wrote to his partner, Thomas Bentley (1730-1780), in December 1767: “Vases with high Crown’d hats! – Have you ever thought seriously, as you ought to on that subject. I never think of it but new improvements Crowd in upon me, & allmost overwhelm my patience.” According to Gaye Blake-Roberts, "The use of identical oranments on difference shapes became common practice in the early years of vase production, such as the distinctive lion's heads introduced around 1767. The lion mask ornament was common to creamware and salt-glazed stoneware. The interchangeablility of these decoratve motifs only enhanced the range of vases available to the public but also allowed a degree of flexibilty, as Wedgwood could adapt any his his forms and designs to the requirements of his customers." The vase is a purely decorative one, and probably intended for display in a private library or other fine room. Sets of three, five, seven or even nine vases were known as 'suites of vases' in the 18th and early 19th centuries. They were commonly set out on mantelpieces, with the largest one in the middle, much as today. This piece was made just before vases in the Neo-classical or 'antique' style became enormously fashionable for use in interior decoration. Josiah Wedgwood was quick to see the commercial potential of this fashion. In 1769, shortly after this piece was made, he boasted of his ambition to become "Vase Maker General to the Universe." There is a similar covered vase in the collection of the Wegwood Museum, Barleston, Staffordshire, which is also unmarked, and in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which is listed as made by Josiah Wedgwood and Sons. Globular vases with similar applied floral garlands with masks were produced at Worcester in the early 1770s.
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