© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Manufactured by Wedgwood, British (founded 1759 )
After James Tassie, British, English (Pollokshaws, Scotland 1735 - 1799 London, England)
The Dipping of Achilles
Other Titles
Alternate Title: The Immortalization of Achilles
Medals and Medallions
Work Type
late 18th century
Creation Place: Europe, United Kingdom, England, Etruria
Physical Descriptions
White jasperware body with blue glaze back and front surmounted by green jasperware border; figures and decoration in white relief
6.6 cm diam. x 0.3 cm depth (2 5/8 x 1/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • manufacturer's mark: verso, impressed: WEDGWOOD / H
  • inscription: verso, graphite, handwritten: 12876
  • inscription: verso, graphite, handwritten: [3]?
Anthony Bower, Liverpool, England. [Frederick Rathbone, London], sold; to Grenville Lindall Winthrop, New York, NY, July 25, 1913, bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Label Text: The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820 , written 2017
Thanks to their durability and portability, coins from ancient Greece and Rome survive in large numbers. In the 18th century, scholars and antiquarians actively collected these artifacts, mining their inscriptions and the images on their reverse for evidence about the customs, agricultural practices, and built environment of the ancient world. Harvard’s collection included over one hundred ancient coins and 18th-century facsimiles, including “imitations of ancient coins” by the innovative British pottery firm Wedgwood and Bentley. They were
stored in cabinets like this mahogany example (TL41593) attributed to a prominent Boston workshop. Comprised of divided drawers that allowed for groups of coins or other specimens to be sorted into different classes and subclasses, these cabinets united the organizing logic of the Enlightenment with the aesthetics of high-style furniture.

Label Text: 32Q: 2220 18th-19th Century , written 2015
The Legacy of Antiquity

In 18th-century Europe, the rediscovery of the ancient Roman cities Herculaneum and Pompeii sparked new interest in the Classical world, with artists eagerly responding in various ways. Painters like Hubert Robert frequently produced scenes that intertwined fantasy and historical elements. In his drawing on view, Robert inserted the famous ancient statue Farnese Hercules into a landscape setting to produce a Roman capriccio, a kind of whimsical composition highly sought after by collectors.

At the same time, artisans and craftsmen added their own handiwork to ancient artifacts. For example, the ring seen here includes a Roman intaglio gem (first to second century CE) set in a modern gold hoop. Josiah Wedgwood took this practice a step further by manufacturing jasperware medallions bearing Classical portraits or designs in relief.

Some artists were more cynical about the new taste for the antique. In his 1753 treatise The Analysis of Beauty, William Hogarth critiqued connoisseurs who praised the indiscriminate copy of ancient art. In the engraving on view, which was included in the treatise, a grotesque figure wearing a large wig and a skirt is measuring copies of famous sculptures from antiquity.

[G1841, G259, 1910.12.1.1-114, 1943.1385, 1943.1176, 1943.1223, 1963.45.3, 1960.637, 1910.79, 1983.22, 1986.559, 1956.250]

Publication History

Old Wedgwood from the Bequest of Grenville Lindall Winthrop, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1944), no. 23, p. 17

Jonathan Shaw and Jennifer Carling, "The Lost Museum: Teachings of the Philosophy Chamber, Recreated", Harvard Magazine (Cambridge, MA, 2017), pp. 42-49, p. 45

Ethan Lasser, ed., The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2017), p. 107, Plate 43b; p. 127, Plate 63 (contents of cabinet); p. 140 (detail); pp. 152-157 in Jennifer L. Roberts's "Submergence"

Exhibition History

Old Wedgwood from the Bequest of Grenville Lindall Winthrop, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 06/04/1944 - 09/03/1944

32Q: 2220 18th-19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/19/2015 - 05/05/2016

The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/19/2017 - 12/31/2017

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu