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Wedgwood vase saved from export after successful campaign

A stunning Wedgwood 'First Day' vase, worth almost half a million pounds, has been saved from exportation to the USA, thanks to generous donations from individuals, charities and organisations keen to see it returned to its historical home of Staffordshire, UK.

The iconic black basalt encaustic-decorated vase was handmade by master potter Josiah Wedgwood himself on the opening day of his factory in Etruria, just north of Stoke-on-Trent, in 1769, and is one of just four vases remaining from that first day - two being part of the Victoria & Albert Museum's collection, and the third remaining with Josiah's descendents. 

Antiques News & Fairs - Iconic Wedgwood Vase Saved From Export

Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795), English Potter, Entrepreneur and founder of the Wedgwood Company

This fourth vase, which had been on loan to the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery for 35 years, had remained in the Wedgwood family's treasured possession until 2016, when it was sold at Christie's Exceptional Sale in London to an overseas buyer for £482,500.

Antiques News & Fairs - Iconic Wedgwood Vase Saved From Export

 

To celebrate the opening of his Etruria factory on 13 June 1769, Josiah Wedgwood threw this and five other First Day's Vases in his new black basalt body. Each one slightly different in design, the encaustic decoration was developed by Josiah to imitate Greek, Italian and Etruscan vases. 

Given the vase's historic and artistic importance, coupled with the realisation that the sale would result in the piece disappearing overseas forever, the Minister of State for Culture stepped in and issued a deferral on the export licence until July 2017, giving the City of Stoke-on-Trent an opportunity to try and raise the funds to match the auction price.

A target of £482,500 had to be raised before the deadline of 14 July 2017, in order to prevent the vase from leaving the UK.  

The Friends of the Potteries Museums & Art Gallery organised an online appeal in late 2016, and donations were received from the public, local businesses, organisations, charities, the Art Fund and the Arts Council/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, with the National Heritage Memorial Fund agreeing to issue a grant of up to £267,500 to make up the shortfall.  The target was successfully met just days before the deadline.

The Stoke-on-Trent City Council subsequently made an offer to the buyer to purchase the vase, which was accepted, and arrangements are currently being made for its return.

Ian Lawley, chairman of Friends of the Museum, said: “The support of major funding bodies such as the National Heritage Memorial Fund has been crucial in meeting our target and reflects the historical importance of this iconic vase. But we would also like to thank the hundreds of individual donors who have contributed to the appeal.”  The City of Stoke-on-Trent also issued a message of thanks for what was described as an "amazing response" to the appeal, and for the generosity of all those who made donations. 

The vase will be displayed in the Wedgwood Museum in Stoke-on-Trent later this year.

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