Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Rosso Antico and Red Stoneware

Perhaps it's not surprising that a Wedgwood pottery shard distinguishes itself so markedly on the foreshore. They are clearly so well made, the markings so precise, so refined. 

Mudlarking Find: Red Stoneware 
I've only found one piece of a handle from what I think is Rosso Antico, not an Italian wine as google would have it, but unglazed red stoneware produced by Josiah Wedgwood from 1760s. He was not the first to produce red stoneware, John Dwight in the 1670s made imitations of the red porcelain Chinese imports which appeared in London from the 1660s. The Elers brothers began producing a sophisticated red stoneware in 1693 in Staffordshire, later moving to Chelsea in London, once their production secrets had been discovered by other potters in the area. Both ended production by 1700. Now that I look at the photos my shard is closer in colour to the browney Elers jug below, than the redder Rosso Antico of Wedgwood - so clearly identification not for the amateur here. Last Friday visited the V&A British Ceramics collection for the first time and none of the red unglazed stoneware held the handle markings seen on shard above, the items below were also tiny, so much smaller than I'd imagined. 
Red Stoneware Elers Brothers 1690 -9 (V&A) 

Rosso Antico means 'antique red'. The objects manufactured were teaware, jugs, dishes and vases. Wedgwood went on to decorate the red forms with intricate black clay patterns and classical scenes, alternatively with enammeled pictures. 
Wedgwood Rosso Antico Jug Late 18th C or early 19th C 
Wedgwood Ross Antico Teapot 1810-20 (V&A) 
Wedgwood was never very keen on Rosso Antico believing it was just too close to redware which anyone could produce and therefore didn't fit with his aspiration to produce premium pottery of distinction. He therefore only made it sporadically, production ceased in 1940. 

Wedgwood Rosso Antico Coffee Pot 1815 (V&A) 


  1. Did I mention how much I enjoy your blog and envy your mudlarking. So much fun & so informative. Thank you.

  2. but aren't those rosso antico pieces elegant. Such beautiful lines and proportions!

  3. Hi,

    Another great blog, I really look forward to these coming through! I mudlark at Greenwich, have done so for a few years, and your research is arming me with so much more information about the pottery I'm finding. I've tried to post comments on your other blogs, but I'm not sure they got through (I'm not much of a blogger!). If you fancy coming down to Greenwich any time we could meet up on the foreshore for a good old scavenge... Lara

  4. ...oh, and here's a link to a piece I wrote for the Thames Foreshore project:

  5. Hi Laura, thanks for posting, really nice to get the feedback. Funny how we tend to go back to our regular patches of the Thames - I'd love to go to Wapping and Greenwhich, so perhaps we'll bump into each other sometime. Thanks for posting the link to your piece, really enjoyed reading it. Julia