Wedgwood Black Basalt Bust of Shakespeare

  • This remarkable bust of Shakespeare is modeled after a sculpture by John Cheere
  • A similar bust acquired by George IV is now in part of the Royal Collection Trust
  • This bust is a stunning example of Wedgwood’s artistry in the innovative medium of black basalt
  • Get complete item description here
Item No. 31-4244

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After a sculpture by John Cheere (1709-1787), the delicately bearded bard wears a doublet and shirt collar truncated at the shoulder in this basalt bust by Wedgwood. Resting on a waisted circular socle, Shakespeare gazes thoughtfully into the middle distance, forehead furrowed as though in the act of composing an immortal couplet. This is a stunning example of Wedgwood’s artistry, specifically in the innovative medium of black basalt.

In Wedgwood Vol. 1, Robin Reilly notes that in February of 1774, London-based sculptor John Cheere supplied Wedgwood with busts of Shakespeare, Plato, Homer and Aristotle. Cheere is recorded to have been commissioned by actor David Garrick in 1769 to create a life-sized figure of Shakespeare for a celebration in Stratford-on-Avon.

A similar bust executed in white marble, originally acquired by George IV and now part of the Royal Collection Trust, is usually on display in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle.

Considered a crowning achievement of Wedgwood, black basalt was created by blending manganese with an iron-oxide rich slurry procured from coal mines called carr. In addition to the impressive color, this combination also provided additional strength and solidity. While it initially proved challenging to fire because of its weight, that same characteristic was an advantage to creating ornaments, lending stability to library busts and vases. This significant example of innovation and artistry immortalizing literature’s most renowned poet and playwright is a necessary addition to any Wedgwood collection.

Date code for 1865

Impressed uppercase mark and “A”

8 1/4" wide x 5 7/8" deep x 11 3/4" high
Wedgwood Black Basalt Bust of Shakespeare
Maker: Wedgwood
Period: 19th Century
Origin: England
Type: Figurines/Statuettes
Depth: 5.88 Inches
Width: 8.25 Inches
Height: 11.75 Inches
Style: Basalt

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