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

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In Praise of the Humble Begonia Leaf

In my opinion there is no majolica design more perfect than the humble begonia leaf dish. 

For most of us a begonia leaf was the first piece of majolica we ever bought. Potted by any number of different companies from the famous George Jones to the most obscure majolica pottery it is the simplest of ideas, a natural serving bowl formed by a leaf. Of course no one has ever seen a begonia leaf quite as colorful as those found in majolica but this small improvement on nature can be overlooked in favor of the joy it brings to the eye.
Made as everything from gigantic serving platters to tiny butter chips its asymmetrical ruffled edge is pleasing in its naturalness and practical in its form.

I have known long time collectors who collect nothing but begonia leaves. The display of a large number of begonia leaves are an amazingly cheerful and lush way to decorate a sideboard or a wall. That something so simple can have such an effect speaks for the beauty of its design.

The most famous of such leaves is of course the Etruscan begonia leaf pickle dish. Made in two sizes, the smaller of the two is much more rare than the larger size. It is said that the original molds were made from pressing leaves into soft clay. I don't know if that's true or not but the final result is a beautifully natural leaf form.

To the potters who saw the beauty of this simple leaf in nature and decided to reproduce it in majolica for our tables, we extend our thanks!

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