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Oyster plate with dolphins: C.3-1986

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Object information

Current Location: In storage


Oyster plate with dolphins


Factory: Wedgwood




White earthenware, moulded and glazed.

Plate in the form of five oyster shells separated by dolphins, radiating from a small, circular bowl in the centre. On the reverse a low, curved foot supports each shell. The upper surface decorated with pale yellow, pink and purple majolica glazes. The dolphins are covered in shades of pink with eyes and fins picked out in deeper pink. The same pink is used on the outer edges of the shells and around the rim of the central bowl, thicker at the edge and shading away into the depressions, which are tinged with pale yellow. The shape and pearlescence of the inner shells is indicated with a faint application of purple. The reverse clear-glazed.


History note: Unknown before C.N.P. Powell, by whom given.

Legal notes

Given by C.N. P.Powell, DSO, OBE, FRSL, MA, through the Friends of the Fitzwilliam Museum

Measurements and weight

Diameter: 23.5 cm
Height: 3.7 cm

Place(s) associated

  • Etruria ⪼ Staffordshire ⪼ England

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Given (1986-04-28) by Powell, C. N. Peter


19th Century, Late#
Circa 1878 CE - 1883 CE


The Wedgwood pattern number for these plates is 2754, described as ‘Oyster Tray, Argenta’. They were also produced in other colours, including brown/pink dolphins and a mustard middle on a cream/white plate and cobalt blue shells with grey dolphins and a turquoise middle. Some 42 different entries in the Wedgwood majolica ware pattern books refer to oyster trays and stands, illustrating the range and popularity of oyster plate designs produced.

This is one of a pair of plates held in the Fitzwilliam collection. Oysters were abundant and inexpensive in the 19th Century, and oyster plates were fashionable from mid 1850s until c.1940. Some of the best were made with majolica glazes, introduced by Minton in 1851 and a significant area of Wedgwood production in the 1870s. Both shape and colour are important in majolica ware, and the use of colour to highlight the detail of the moulding on these plates is typical. The delicately applied pink colour and the light purple which mimics the inside of an oyster shell (more evident on this plate than on the other) suggests they were made after 1878, when Wedgwood updated its majolica ware, the new designs favouring embossed, often Japanese-inspired, naturalistic decoration painted in bright majolica colours against a pale or white background. This change, known as Argenta ware, followed the observation that earlier, more deeply coloured majolica seemed to be going out of fashion at the 1878 Paris exhibition. The lozenge-shaped factory mark indicates that the plates were made before 1884.

Components of the work

Reverse composed of lead-glaze ( clear)
Front composed of opaque glaze

Materials used in production

White earthenware

Techniques used in production

Moulding : White earthenware, the upper surface decorated with pale yellow, pink and purple glaze.

Inscription or legends present

  • Text: WEDGWOOD
  • Location: On reverse
  • Method of creation: Impressed
  • Type: Mark

Inscription present: unclear

  • Text: possibly 'CUD'
  • Location: On reverse
  • Method of creation: Impressed
  • Type: Mark
  • Text: W
  • Location: On reverse
  • Method of creation: Impressed
  • Type: Mark

Inscription present: lozenge shaped Patent Registration mark, possibly incorporating date letter 'D' (1878), but mainly illegible

  • Location: On reverse
  • Method of creation: Impressed
  • Type: Mark

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.3-1986
Primary reference Number: 12139
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Wednesday 15 July 2020 Last processed: Wednesday 13 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Oyster plate with dolphins" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-07-13 01:32:25

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