Very Rare and Impressive Wedgwood Patent Impressed Impressionist Tile
  • Style/technique: Floral Patent Impressed
  • Manufacturer: Josiah Wedgwood & Sons
  • Dimensions: 6" x 6"
  • Date: circa 1883


Quite one of the most artistic tile designs ever produced by Wedgwood in any technique, a floral design with a decidedly impressionist feel to it and made by very unusual techniques.This more complex example of Patent Impressed tiles is most likely an early example and very likely to have been designed by Lewis Day who is recorded as having designed a few of the earlier Patent Impressed tiles for Wedgwood.

Whilst tiles with stencilled slip decoration are usually referred to as Patent Impressed this is not the case, this tile however is truly a Patent Impressed tile and there are two distinct types of impression. The shape of the leaves is impreesed or indented into the tile surface, this was done by putting templates, presumably of cardboard as described in the patent, in to the press before the dust clay was added and the press operated. The background colours are also impressed, coloured clay dust sprinkled in to the machine again before the addition of the white dust clay and pressing. After pressing the lighter green slip of the leaves and bright white slip of the flowers have been applied through stencils and the brown outline painted.

Stencilled slip tiles are often called Marsden's Patent because many by Wedgwood are found with Patent Impressed embossed verso and this has been understandably taken to describe the stencilled slip process. Marsden offered his patent to Wedgwood in 1880 and in 1881 production started with a specialist department being established the following year. This stencilled process however is not what the patent describes furthermore the slips are clearly applied rather than impressed, it would appear that the root cause of the misunderstanding is due to Wedgwood's buying in policy. A misreading of the patent not least by the author of the book in which the patent is transcribed and described by the patentee of the process George Marsden has compounded the error.

It is believed that Wedgwood bought most if not all of their tile blanks from subcontractors and that blanks made from green clay came from different manufacturers to those from white clay. Green clay blanks being the most often used for Patent Impressed were all embossed with that legend however Wedgwood used such green clay banks for tiles decoration by other processes, ordinary stencilled slip such as this and also transfer prints. The result being that many stencilled slip tiles which do not use the patented process are found with Patent Impressed embossed when they aren't and they shouldn't.

Wedgwood's specialist tile department lasted for only six years 1882 - 1888 when it was closed. Tile making was peripheral to Wedgwood's pottery and porcelain business and by this date a century after the company's founding it was run by accountants more concerned with the quality of the financial bottom line than that of artistic merit or skill. Tiles in this period may have been pressed by Wedgwood but that is not a given, their specialist tile department may have been a decorating department only.

A rare and intriguing tile, for a Patent Impressed tile I am impressed at its unusual impressionist feel. Most irritatingly, and quite exceptionally for a Patent Impressed tile it has no pattern number on the back so we can not for sure put it in to Wedgwood's sequence of designs and timeline.

Verso fully marked Patent Impressed back with place settings for feet to make a pot stand, this combination only noted on white clay tiles.

Condition: Very good
Price: £420 (approx $638)
Ref: 02236

One chip on the top edge and about half a dozen very tiny chips on the right edge, the tiny chip to the bottom left corner is a glazed over manufacturing imperfection. There is a small surface chip on the bottom left leaf and two other very tiny surface chips otherwise the surface condition is very excellent with only the slightest of marks. On the upper half of the left side there's a little staining on the very edge and also in the crazing close by but the most obvious mark there is a glazing imperfection. It is very clean and bright.

UK Special Delivery £428

US and World Airsure £436

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The image is full size at 72 dpi (about 430 pixels wide) in maximum quality JPEG format.

The image is a little oversize rather than cropped close to the edges so that the edges can easily be seen and any chips etc can be quickly spotted. Other marks described are usually not visible at all when the tile is viewed straight as one normally sees it and can only be seen with a critical eye when the tile is tilted to catch imperfections in reflected light. For more details of how we describe marks see Condition.

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