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Wedgwood medallion made from dark grey clay from Sydney Cove, 1789

2004.0062.0001

Wedgwood medallion made from dark grey clay from Sydney Cove, 1789

Object information

Description

In 1789 Governor Arthur Phillip sent a sample of clay to Sir Joseph Banks, then President of the Royal Society of London. Banks sent the clay to his friend and fellow member of the Royal Society Josiah Wedgwood to be tested for its suitability to make pottery, which Wedgwood reported was excellent. Wedgwood also asked his friend Erasmus Darwin to pen a verse to accompany the medallion.

Physical description

Original issue Wedgwood medallion made from clay from Sydney Cove. The full title of the medallion is 'Hope encouraging Art and Labour, under the influence of Peace, to pursue the employments necessary to give security and happiness to an infant settlement' but this is not on the medallion itself. The medallion is dark grey. The obverse depicts a group of classical figures in relief, above "ETRURIA / 1789". "MADE BY / IOSIAH WEDGWOOD / OF CLAY / FROM / SYDNEY COVE" is inscribed in the reverse.

Statement of significance

The Sydney Cove Medallion collection consists of a single original issue Wedgwood medallion made in 1789 from clay from Sydney Cove. It is a key object through which we can examine the links between Australia and England. The story of the making of the medallion connects to key figures in British and Australian history including Governor Arthur Phillip, Joseph Banks, Josiah Wedgwood and Erasmus Darwin.

The medallion was designed by Henry Webber with the final finishing of the moulds done by William Hackwood, Josiah Wedgwood's principal modeller. The full title of the medallion is "Hope encouraging Art and Labour, under the influence of Peace, to pursue the employments necessary to give security and happiness to an infant settlement", however it was sometimes referred to by the Wedgwood family by the more manageable title of 'the Botany Bay medal'.

The design is highly symbolic. It depicts Hope as a female figure dressed in Grecian-style robes. The figure is depicted in front of an anchor, the symbol for hope. Peace holds an olive branch in her hand and has a horn of plenty spilling forth at her feet. Beside Peace, Art is shown as a female figure holding an artist's palette and lastly Labour (the only male figure on the medallion) wears a loin cloth and has a sledge-hammer across his shoulder. Behind the figures a ship sails into a bay and buildings rise on land in the background. The reverse has been stamped: MADE BY IOSIAH WEDGWOOD OF CLAY FROM SYDNEY COVE. [I is used rather than J in order to comply with 'classical' style - no J is used in Roman inscriptions.] Wedgwood asked his friend Erasmus Darwin to write a verse to accompany the medallion.

The medallion documents a number of significant themes from the Australian colonial period.
The colonisation of New South Wales was undertaken primarily in order to safeguard Britain's interests in the East. The Botany Bay site recommended itself for a variety of reasons. It presented a position offering promising looking natural resources and sheltered anchorage with a minimal existing population having been observed. It was also considered a strategic location close to the Indian subcontinent.

Object information

Who

  • Associated person

  • Sir Joseph Banks
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  • Banks sent the clay to his friend and fellow member of the Royal Society Josiah Wedgwood to be tested for its suitability to make pottery, which Wedgwood reported was excellent

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