You may know of Wedgwood as a brand of china and tableware, but many of us grew up looking at its familiar light-blue knick knacks with white bas-relief depicting Grecian scenes with people in togas.
But I’m learning just how many varieties of Jasperware the company produced since its beginnings in 1759, thanks to an upcoming auction at Quinn’s Auction Galleries in Falls Church this Saturday that contains over 1,000 pieces in 414 lots. The collection comes from Adele and Alan Barnett, longtime Fairfax residents and collectors who founded the Wedgwood Society of Washington DC. They recently retired and moved to Maine, which forced them to downsize their collection from over 6,000 pieces.
“What I find fascinating is the history of the company,” Adele told me, “the variety and diversity of the wares they have made over 260 years and how long the company has survived.”
The variety, which is on display for the auction preview this week, ranges from a one-off sink made as a prop for an advertisement…
… to a 19th-century pull handle for a beer tap…
… to dinner place-card holders…
… to cigarette boxes and tobacco jars. These 20th-century examples are just beautiful, whether you use them for their stated purpose or not:
The Barnetts started the DC Wedgwood society in 2000 after they moved here from Boston, where Adele was president of the local society up there. The DC group has since grown to include more than 300 members from seven countries, who meet regularly to talk about their collections, listen to lectures from academics and auctioneers, and host appraisal sessions.
The process of trying to decide what to keep and what to give up was difficult, to say the least, she told me. “There was lots of heartache. It was a miserable process,” she said. “It was all I could do not to cry.”
But for die-hard fans, it’s a golden opportunity. Here are some of my own favorites. They include the deep-blue 19th century pieces, where the white relief is nearly translucent:
I also love the modern pieces, sans toga:
These cabbage plates remind me so much of Majolica, which I find to be utterly charming:
As a longtime chronicler of interior design, I go nuts every time a see intaglios elegantly framed on a wall. My imagination went straight in that direction when I saw these lots — can’t you just picture framed Wedgwood “intaglios” to give an important room character?
The collection is still open for preview this Friday from 10 am – 5 pm. The auction is Saturday, April 14, at 11 am, and the galleries will open for a final preview at 9 am that morning.