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Collection Highlight: The Queen's Vase

The Queen's Vase; detail showing the crown; detail showing one of the Queen's Beasts

John Wadsworth (1879-1955), The Queen's Vase 

Presented to the Commonwealth of Australia by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra ACT

On display in the Gifts Corner, first floor public area


This finely detailed, hand crafted bone china vase was designed by John Wadsworth of Minton's and made by the British Pottery Manufacturers Federation to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Also known as the Coronation Vase or the Queen's Beasts Vase, it was a highly ambitious project that was designed to showcase the skills of mid-20th century British ceramicists. It was unprecedented in both scale and cost.

The ten-sided vase features shield motifs with the floral emblems of the countries of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, and heraldic statues—the Queen's Beasts—around the base, each of which represents an aspect of Her Majesty's ancestry. They include the lion of England, the red dragon of Wales, the unicorn of Scotland and the white horse of Hanover.

 Details of the Queen's Vase: (left and right) the Queen's beasts and (centre) shield for Australia decorated with the wattle

Wadsworth won a competition to design the vase, and while it took him only a few days to finalise his concept, the manufacturing involved 8,000 hours of work. Six British pottery manufacturers, including Wedgewood, Royal Doulton and Minton's, were involved in creating the vase.

Many techniques used in making the vase, such as those used to make the niches in which the Queen's Beasts sit, were invented specifically for the project.

The vase is extremely rare—only 13 were ever made. One was presented to the Queen herself and, at a special ceremony at the Dorchester Hotel, four were given to the countries of the United Kingdom and seven to the then members of the Commonwealth. It is thought one may have been presented to the United States.

Other Queen's Vases are on public display in the New Zealand Parliament and the Canadian Museum of Civilisation.

The Queen's Vase presented to Australia was held in storage for many years at Parliament House, but was put on public display following the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and to mark the visit of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2013.


Find out more:

666 ABC Canberra featured the Queen's Vase on its Treasure Trove program on 29 November 2016.