Portland Vase: First Edition #11
Rarely does a First Edition Portland Vase come onto the market, and even more rarely such a perfect example.
The model for this is the Portland Vase in the British Museum, a spectacular piece of cased glass made somewhere around 200AD. Josiah Wedgwood borrowed it from the then owner, the Duke of Portland, and created a small number of copies in jasperware, perhaps as many as 40.
Of those known, all but a handful are now in museums and art galleries. They vary from failed early trials to the occasional perfect example, such as this one. This example has not so much as a firing crack to mar its perfection. The undercutting, the shading, the silken feel of this early jasper combine to make this one of the very best examples.
This example was only identified in the last few years, when it was offered for auction in New York, described as a 19th century unmarked example. The quality alone speaks of its authenticity, but other factors also attest.
The construction of the base, in particular, tells us this is an original. The relief goes all the way to the edge, and can be seen when the vase is viewed in profile; later editions have a rim added to the edge. The handles are slightly uneven in height, which is true of the glass original, but was 'corrected' in later editions. When you look down into the vase witha strong light, a circular hole is seen in the centre of the base disc. This hole is common to all the first edition vases we have been able to examine, but has never been observed on a later edition.
Lastly, the shading is delicate in the extreme, using two tones of black; another feature not found on the later editions.
Many known examples are numbered in pencil on the inside of the neck; this one appears to be numbered 11, although it is difficult to be certain - see the second last picture. Number 11 is identified in the traditional lists as being in the Tulk Collection, which would make it the one now in the V&A in London. However, the museum tells us their copy is not numbered.
Stock Number 5012