A look at the design, market and legacy of Victorian pottery

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing: Brownhill's Bamboo & Trellis Stoneware

In this age of quick information, inaccuracies and half-truths can be repeated so frequently before they can be corrected that they develop a life of their own. It's like the game of whispering down the lane where one inaccuracy builds upon another and another, the truth gets lost in the process. So is the case surrounding Brownhill's  Bamboo & Trellis stoneware pattern.

Incorrectly identified as majolica in Marian Katz-Marks influential Majolica Pottery books, this pattern today has completely lost its true identity. Time and again this pattern is identified in reference books and auctions as majolica thanks to this single erroneous reference.

It is not majolica.
It is enameled stoneware with a salt or smear glaze. (I'm not sure which. Some reliable references describe it as salt-glazed and other times describe it as smear-glazed. One thing they all agree on is that it is not a majolica glaze!)

The high prices charged by dealers who think they have majolica gold in their hands has kept the pattern from finding it's true audience among collectors of stoneware pottery. Instead it's developed a reputation as a not particularly desirable majolica pattern. It's a shame too because it's a terrific example of Japonism in British pottery. Made in everything from cheese bells to butter chips it's a pretty design, but if you expect to find a piece at a price comparable to similar stoneware, you're sorely mistaken.

Even some of the best experts in the field have been misled. The photos below are all from Majolica Auctions where the pieces were listed as "Brownhills majolica."

It seems unlikely that this mistake will ever be righted, at least in our lifetime. People who have a lot of money tied up in the pieces aren't willing to let them go for the cost of their real worth because it's just a fraction of what they bring at sale today as majolica.

And it's all because one author made an honest mistake 20 years ago.

1 comment:

  1. Jimbo,
    Nice work. Your BLOG delights me several times a week. The Brownhill's pottery would be proud of your collection of photos.