Figure – Christ on the Cross
The ceramics gallery at the Potteries Museum has over 5,000 pieces on display. Some of them are very flamboyant and impossible to miss. Others are much more unassuming but in many instances, just as intriguing. Among them is this little model of Christ on the cross. Made in white salt-glazed stoneware it is, despite being only 4 ¼ inches high, remarkably detailed. On the front is a simply modelled figure of Christ crucified with his facial features and the nail holes in his hands and feet picked out in brown slip. Above him is a banner with the letters ‘INRI’ representing the Latin inscription ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’. Beneath his feet are a skull and crossed bones, bell and an hourglass. The reverse of this model has 10 roundels, four plain and six moulded with imaginary coats of arms. The date 1732 is incised on the base. As far as we know this piece is unique yet it represents a great deal of work.
The model came to the museum in 1965. It had been passed down through members of the Wood family who had married into the branch of the Wedgwood family that built the Big House, Burslem, and cousins of Josiah Wedgwood. The date of 1732 incised into the base of the model is an early one for white salt-glazed stoneware and puts its production within the period when Aaron Wedgwood (1666-1743) was working with his sons, John and Thomas. Ornamental and overtly religious wares are rare at this period since most of the pottery made was utilitarian kitchen, dairy or table ware. Its survival, in virtually perfect condition is remarkable but it was clearly always treasured.
Today Easter for many people is marked by buying and eating chocolate eggs but a few days after Easter Sunday nothing remains of all that confectionary. By contrast this small model of the crucifixion has survived for almost 300 years.