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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dragon Drop

In commemoration of the release of the new film The Hobbit we thought we'd do a post featuring the denizen form of main antagonist, Smaug, a winged dragon.

Dragons are an ancient theme in pottery, going back to the earliest vessels created by man. Sometimes revered, sometimes feared, dragons can be found everywhere in human culture. The history of majolica is no exception. The dragon as majolica iconography has taken on both utilitarian and decorative purpose but always adds a fantastical element to any design.

The largest and most famous dragon in majolica appeared at the top of the Minton St. George Fountain created for the 1862 London Exhibition, but there are lesser dragons as well, many within the budget of the dragon connoisseur in you.

Although more popular among continental majolica makers like Schiller and Sons, British majolica makers Minton, Wedgwood, Shorter, Royal Worcester and Copeland also made dragon themed majolica.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Gifts for the Majolica Collector

Are you trying to find just the right last minute holiday gift for the majolica collector in your life?

Without question the best gift would be that special piece of majolica that they've always longed for but, barring a budget of several thousand dollars, a good alternative would be a book on majolica! Since most serious collectors have the major references available on the bookshelf an off-the-mainstream book about majolica might be just the way to go.

Here are a few to consider:

La Faïencerie de Sarreguemines by Alain Benedick

A terrific paperback book about the majolica from the famous German/French pottery. The pictures alone are a great reference. Also includes pictures of the company marks as well as the form numbers of different pieces. 224 pages. In French.

Majolica by Nicholas Dawes

A lovely out-of-print hardback overview survey on majolica still available from some retailers. You may know Dawes from Antiques Roadshow on PBS. Beautiful photos! Makes a great coffee table book. 192 pages.

Portuguese Palissy Ware by Marshall P Katz

A hardcover book on the majolica genre created by the famous 16th Century artist Benard Palissy. Covers the work produced between 1853-1920 in the town Caldas da Rainha, primarily by the potters Mafra and Pinheiro. Includes two pages of marks. 140 pages.

Les Massier: Majolica from Vallauris from Silvana Editoriale

A softcover catalog from a 2009 exhibition of work of the famous Massier family from Vallauris. Covers the work of founder Jacques Massier, Clement Massier, Delphin Massier, Jerome Massier and Cedric Massier. 190 pages. In French with some English translations.

Artichauts et Aspergenes en Barbotine by Marye Bottero

A hard cover book on the continental majolica sub-genre of asparagus and artichoke servers. Lots of color pictures. Covers the work of all of the major and most of the minor French and German potters. 168 pages. In French.

Bendigo Pottery Majolica 1879-1911 by Gregory Hill

A rather hard-to-find softcover overview on the work of this little-known Australian pottery. From a 2008 exhibition. 74 pages.

American Majolica 1850-1900 by M. Charles Rebert

A 1981 hardcover out-of-print book. The book that started the majolica craze in the US. The first and only overall view of American majolica. We did a review of it here. 87 pages.

Barbotines de la Côte d'Azur by Marye Bottero

A survey of the majolica produced in the south of France. Includes a section on marks. 224 pages. In French

and of course...

Etruscan Majolica: The Majolica Of Griffen Smith & Company: The History by Dimitrios Bastas, 72 pages


Etruscan Majolica: The Majolica Of Griffen Smith & Company: The Catalog by Dimitrios Bastas, 74 pages

The finest examples of Etruscan Majolica illustrated in beautiful full color. Divided into categories based on subject. Included is an extensive, color coded price guide. Softcover.

Here's to wishing you all the happiest of holidays!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Majolica Spotlight: Wedgwood's Fruit Plate Series

One of the first majolica plates we ever bought was from Wedgwood's large fruit dessert plate series. It pictures a sliced melon with a turquoise basket weave ground. We picked it up at a tiny church sponsored antiques sale for $30 and was one of the prettiest plates we'd ever seen. Soon afterwards we started to see other plates with different fruits on them-- many different fruits. It piqued our curiosity. We began to wonder, how many different plates could there be? (By the way, it seems rather odd that the melon plate in the top photo is somewhat different in design from the melon plate directly below, but that is topic for another post entirely!)

Well, it's now 25+ years later and we're still not sure! It seems that as soon as they're all accounted for a different one shows up! To date we've counted twelve different large plates.

The series itself dates to the 1870's and was conceived as part of the Argenta line. Consequently the plates are most frequently found with an ivory or turquoise ground, and less frequently with a cobalt ground.

With some looking they can also be found in brown, mottled, and two glaze combinations like cobalt/green and gold/red.

Each plate features one large fruit surrounded by smaller fruits, nuts and foliage.

Here's what we've found so far in addition to the melon: a pomegranate: an apple; chestnut; coconut; fig; lemon; peach; pear; pineapple; a whole orange; and a peeled orange. Why there are two oranges we can't say (maybe one is supposed to be a clementine or a tangerine, who knows) but there seems to be a consensus among collectors we've spoken to that the peeled orange is the most desired and most beautiful in the series.

In addition to the large 9-inch plates there were numerous matching serving pieces: platters in three sizes; two grape servers; a relish plate; a footed bowl; tazzas in two sizes; a 6.75-inch side dish; an umbrella stand; a condiment set; mugs; a large punch bowl; and a sardine box. With so many different shapes there must be other pieces of the series that we haven't seen as well.
There were also other Wedgwood designs that utilized the same basket weave ground such as the Wedgwood cornbread platter but as far as I can tell they're not actually part of the series but more like go-alongs.

The 9-inch plates have always brought good prices. The ivory ground plates are often stained but still bring about $100-$200 each; the turquoise plates usually bring $200-$350 each; and the cobalt ground plates will bring $400+. The other color combinations are not really very popular with the all-over mottled plates usually bringing the lowest price of them all by selling for under $100.
Prices for the companion pieces depend on color, rarity and condition.

One note to all this: the Etruscan apple and strawberry plate is a copy of the Wedgwood peach plate, minus the peach! The elements are somewhat reorganized but there's no question of the relation between the two.

It was only one of many Etruscan designs with components "borrowed" from Wedgwood.