Skip to main content

Jasperware medallion of Captain James Cook, 1779

Wedgwood and Bentlley (manufacturer)

white on blue Jasper Ware in oval shaped wood and gilt frame (frame: 12.0 cm x 10.2 cm depth 2.3 cm, sight: 8.0 cm x 6.2 cm)

Josiah Wedgwood, potter and industrialist, was apprenticed to his potter brother, Thomas, at an early age. When his brother denied him a partnership in the family business, he collaborated with the prominent potter Thomas Whieldon to establish his first pottery factory, in Burslem, Staffordshire, with Thomas Bentley (1730-1780) as his business partner. In the 1770s Wedgwood and Bentley established the Etruria works near Stoke-on-Trent. Jasperware, granularly textured stoneware with white bas relief, was introduced in 1774. In later life Wedgwood was a prominent advocate of the abolition of slavery, from 1787 using his Wedgwood Jasperware as a means to publicise the cause in Britain and America. The plaque of Cook is thought to be one of a series of ‘Illustrious Moderns’ produced by Wedgwood and Bentley comprising portraits of scientists, philosophers, doctors and statesmen of the times. Many of the Jasperware reliefs were designed by John Flaxman (1755-1826), who worked for Wedgwood from 1775 to 1787, before he cemented his illustrious reputation as a sculptor and draughtsman.

Wedgwood’s plaque portrait of James Cook is based on an engraving executed by James Basire after the painting by William Hodges, the official artist on Cook’s second voyage.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds provided by Robert Oatley AO 2007

Accession number: 2007.27

Currently not on display

Copyright image request form
Request a digital copy of an image for publication

Artist and subject

Wedgwood and Bentlley

Captain James Cook RN (age 51 in 1779)

Subject professions

Exploration and settlement

© National Portrait Gallery 2019
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196
The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Ngunnawal people, the traditional custodians of the land upon which the NPG stands.