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

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The REAL Cost of Reproductions

One of the nice things about writing a blog like this is hearing from readers who share my enthusiasm for majolica.

Earlier today, a reader sent me photos of two pieces she purchased at auction recently asking if the pieces were indeed George Jones majolica as she suspected.

I get photos like these from time to time and more often than not, I end up being the barer of bad news. I usually have to inform the reader that the pieces owned by them are not old majolica but reproductions. I hate being the one to burst the bubble of excitement of the purchaser but it's better to share the truth than allow them to continue ignorant of the facts. In this case, I did indeed need to break the bad news. The two pieces sent to me were British reproductions of George Jones pieces.

The first one was a reproduction of the GJ Quail "Empty Nest" terrine.

The second was a reproduction of the George Jones Calla Lily Jardiniere.

To a seasoned buyer, both of these reproductions are well known but to a beginner just starting to turn a collector's eye to majolica, they are reasonable facsimiles of things they may have seen in books. But are they really?
Neither one of these pieces bear the kinds of phony potter's marks you see in many reproductions made to deceive. Instead they bear simple style numbers. Compared side-by-side with the real thing they really look nothing like the original in any real way, only in the most superficial way. I can only assume that the intention to deceive was not paramount in the maker's mind when these were reproduced. Perhaps they were designed only to offer a reasonable facsimile to people who can't afford the original. In any event, the buyer should have done her homework better but, having made the same kinds of mistakes myself in the distant past, I'm not the one to start pointing fingers. The simple truth is that you learn more from your mistakes than your successes.

So what is the result of buying a reproduction when you think you're buying the real thing?

Well, aside from the financial loss which in certain cases could be severe, there is both a loss of innocence and a loss of enthusiasm. I hate to see things like that. I can still remember my excitement at purchasing my first piece of majolica, a begonia leaf. This person will not have a fond memory like that to look back at like I do. I can only hope it doesn't turn her off to majolica completely. I'd hate to see that happen.

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