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A glimpse at the large display case situated to far-left hand side of the Clore Discovery Centre in National Museum Cardiff reveals a visual array of different types of modern and historic decorative plates, teapots, as well as figurines. These are both taxidermy and ceramic objects, some brightly glazed and others radiating the luminescence of the stone they were crafted from. The eye can rest upon, or circle around, such shapes as a smoothly curved oxen made from Chinese jade, an earthenware Staffordshire leopard and even a taxidermy echidna, an animal that belongs to the Monotreme order of egg-laying mammals.

Elsewhere in the cabinet, the eye can be drawn to ceramic animals like the brightly marked Figure of a Leopard, produced between 1865 and 1875 by the renowned Wedgwood pottery factory. As its attractive form indicates, Wedgwood’s animal figures were popular by the 1850s and affordable to a public who could display them as they were modelled in a way that allowed them to sit on a mantel piece.

Earlier examples of Wedgwood’s engagement with animal motifs can also be viewed in the Teapot with Tiger Print, produced between 1812 and 1815, and John Walton’s Lamb-Figure Group, made between 1820 and 1830. This figure group, of an ewe and her lamb sitting amongst a mound of foliage called a bocage, has a purpose that can be grasped by viewing its flat back and hollowed-out tree trunk. This physical shape would have enabled it to have been used as a spill vase – that could take a flame from fire to a light – and which would normally sit on a narrow ledge.

Additionally, the Clore Discovery Centre holds handling drawers containing teapots, as well as ceramic fragments, such as roughly-textured earthenware, accompanied by bilingual guide books to aid sensory interpretation. These objects are just a small fraction of National Museum Cardiff’s wonderful collection of ceramics to look out for during a visit so please come and explore!

Dr Rosanna Harrison

Learning Pool Facilitator: Clore Discovery Gallery/Art Exhibition Evaluation Placement

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