This teapot was made by the Wedgwood factory from a material known as black basalt, which the factory first created in 1768. An extremely hard vitreous stoneware which takes its name from a black volcanic rock, black basalt is made from reddish-brown clay which turns black on firing due to the addition of manganese oxide. With surprising foresight, Wedgwood said that ‘Black is Sterling and will last forever’. He aimed to surpass a similar clay known as ‘Egyptian Black’ to create a superior material that was better suited to crisp and exquisite ornament. These wares were inspired by Etruscan antiquities, which were being excavated at archaeological sites of Italy, and by the many vases in the renowned collection amassed by Sir William Hamilton.
This teapot has a ‘parapet’ lip, and the finial on the lid takes the form of the Sibyl, a seated female figure often referred to as the ‘widow’. The basket-weave effect on the body, handle and spout was achieved by the use of an engine-turning lathe which was first introduced to the Staffordshire pottery industry by Wedgwood in 1763. A similar example with a fluted design exists in the Wedgwood Museum, accession number 9461.