University Museums

Title: Patch or tooth-pick box
Name: Patch or tooth-pick box
Date: 1790
Medium: Jasperware cameo on ivory box
Country/Culture: English
Dimensions: 1/2 × 3 1/8 × 1 in. (1.3 × 7.9 × 2.5 cm)
Classification: Decorative Arts, Ceramics
Credit Line: Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Object Number: 2.8.109
More Information
Much of the ornamentation used by Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) was done in association with friend and partner, Thomas Bentley (1730-1781). The two became partners in 1767, and in 1769 Bentley agreed to take control of Wedgwood's business ventures in London. That same year business expanded with the opening of the Chelsea decoration studio. The first ornamental wares catalog was offered in 1773 and included cameos, medallions, lamps, busts, and figurines. Both men had a taste for classical arts and this was reflected in their collaborative work. When Bentley died in 1781, Wedgewood suffered a tremendous professional and personal loss. However, the two men had established a neoclassical style that outlived their successful partnership.

The frolicking putti and cherubs adorning this small cameo inset are frequent motifs in Wedgwood's ornamental work. Small plaques like this one were marketed as buckle, jewelry and box-top insets, particularly patch boxes. In accordance with eighteenth-century fashion, patches (small pieces of silk or court plaster) were worn by women on the face or neck to enhance features or cover imperfections. A typical use for a patch was to conceal facial scarring caused by smallpox.