University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

The Museum Porch: Bicentennial Wedgwood Plates, 1940

July 16, 2015

Bicentennial Wedgwood Plate, 1940: The Museum Porch by Thorton Oakley
Bicentennial Wedgwood Plate, 1940: The Museum Porch by Thornton Oakley. Photo by Michael Condiff.

I’m like the Museum in a sense that I’m a collector of things. I tend to be most interested in coins, which is why one of my favorite galleries at the museum is the Greece Gallery. There’s something interesting about currency and commerce; who and how many people held the currency, what was it used to purchase? But that’s not to say I do not have an interest in other collectibles. Above is a picture of a Wedgwood plate titled “The Museum Porch” that I recently acquired in exchange for some of my less interesting, modern electronic-currency. Of particular interest to me is that the very top portion of the Museum drawing has either cut off or intentionally left out the lion sculpture which sits atop the entrance on the roof. I have actually found it to be difficult in dealing with photos of the Kamin Entrance (Museum Porch) to get the entire scene without cutting out the top portion of the roof with the lion. It seems the same problem existed in 1940 as it does some 75 years later.

The plate I purchased is part of a set. In 1939, the University of Pennsylvania commissioned a set of a dozen plates of Wedgwood China to commemorate the University’s bicentennial, each designed by Penn alumni. The Museum Porch was drawn by Thornton Oakley, an accomplished illustrator, writer, and teacher. One of my favorite works of his is a World War I patriotic drawing of a scene at the Hog Island shipyard, titled Riveters at Hog Island.

Riveters at Work at Hog Island Shipyard (Philadelphia) by Thornton Oakley, from Harper's Monthly Magazine October 1918
Riveters at Work at Hog Island Shipyard (Philadelphia) by Thornton Oakley, from Harper’s Monthly Magazine, October 1918.

Here is the reverse side of the plate and you can notice some crazing. Lynn and Tessa in our Conservation Department gave me a crash course in what crazing is and why crazing occurs. It’s nice when you can walk down the hallway and ask experts why and how this happens.

Reverse Plate Side
Reverse Plate Side. Photo by Michael Condiff.

Above you can see that Thornton Oakley graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in ’01. That’s 1901 and not 2001, as I’m more used to seeing the latter. Imported apparently by Jones, McDuffie & Stratton (JMS). With a little digging I found an article with a little bit of the back-story of JMS.

Here is a shot of the lion that always gets cut out of photographs.
Here is a shot of the lion sculpture that often gets cut out of photographs and the 1940 Wedgwood plate. Photo by Michael Condiff.

Unfortunately for my wallet, I do have the itch to collect the remaining 11 plates in the set.

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