The Wedgwood factory’s beginnings coincided with discovering the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and the blossoming of the neoclassical style based on the architecture, art, and artifacts revealed through archaeological excavations. British travelers to the Continent in the 18th century experienced firsthand the excitement of discovery and brought antiquities, reproductions, and artwork home to adorn their residences and museums.
The collections of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan pottery of the British envoy to the King of the Two Sicilies, William Hamilton (1730-1803), were published, with Wedgwood receiving an advance copy in 1766. The lavishly illustrated folios inspired Wedgwood’s ceramic design. Factory artisans produced wares with encaustic decoration that used red enamel colors to imitate the ancient Greeks’ and Romans’ red-figure painting (patented in 1769) of humans, mythological activities, and highly stylized ornamentation. The forms often paid tribute by imitating their antique predecessors. Vessels used to store, mix, or serve wine and water; amphorae, kraters, hydria, and more.