Wedgwood's Portland vase copies lead Goldfein collection

Five examples of Wedgwood’s copy of the Portland vase come for sale at Dreweatts in Newbury on June 27 as part of the Stanley F Goldfein collection of ceramics.

Portland Blue 1

Wedgwood blue jasper model of the Portland Vase c.1791, estimate £4000-6000 at Dreweatts.

Variously dated to 1789-91, each of the five vases (three in black jasper, two in powder blue) has an estimate of £4000-6000.

The celebrated Roman cameo glass vase known as the Portland or Barberini vase was lent to Josiah Wedgwood to study and ultimately copy in dry-bodied stoneware in the 1780s. After nearly five years of obsession and hundreds of experiments, he achieved his aim of a near perfect copy in 1790.

While Wedgwood's first attempts were subject to imperfections (particularly ‘bubbles’ caused when gases inside the clay expanded in the heat of the kiln), his final versions were so accurate, one was used to help piece back together the original vase when it smashed while on display at the British Museum.

Portland Blue 2

Detail of a Wedgwood blue jasper model of the Portland Vase c.1791, estimate £4000-6000 at Dreweatts.

Portland Black 1

Wedgwood black jasper trial model of the Portland Vase c.1789, estimate £4000-6000 at Dreweatts.

Guided by dealers such as Jonathan Horne and Alistair Sampson in London and Leo Kaplan in New York, Stanley Goldfein collected 18th century British ceramics, both pottery and porcelain, from the 1970s. 

An active member of the Wedgwood Society of New York, he had a particular fondness for the early work of the famous Barlaston potter. He gave many pieces to museums and was instrumental in seeing that the Buten Collection of Wedgwood was placed with the Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama.

Another of the highlights of his own collection is a Queen’s Ware plate from perhaps the most important commission Wedgwood ever received - the so-called Frog service commissioned by the Russian empress Catherine the Great for the Chesme Palace and made between 1773-74 at a cost of £2700.

Painted in sepia tones with British landscapes of country houses and industrial landmarks, it is considered one of the finest surviving pictorial records of eighteenth-century Britain.

The central image to the Goldfein plate is a view of the King's Mills at Castle Donington, taken from a print issued in 1745. It is estimated at £8000-12,000.

The sale of the Goldfein collection is being conducted by three different auction houses in the UK and the US.

Dreweatts in association with Christie’s will offer a total of 142 works, split between this live auction at the Newbury saleroom (127 lots offered without reserve) and 15 items with estimates of more than £10,000 each that will be sold by Christie’s in London sometime in the autumn.

Additional pieces from the collection are currently being sold by Bonhams Skinner in Marlborough, Massachusetts across more than 400 lots. 

Frog Service Plate

Wedgwood and Bentley creamware plate from the Frog service made for Catherine the Great, estimate of £8000-12,000.

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