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

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Majolica in the Movies: National Velvet

Who doesn't love sweet little Velvet Brown, the heroine of the 1944 film, Natonal Velvet.
Who would have suspected that the Brown family collected majolica?

The movie National Velvet takes place in the English countryside before the war. All the more peculiar that a piece of Etruscan Majolica is smack darn in the center of the Brown's plate rack. Not just any piece of Etruscan Majolica but an Etruscan Majolica Begonia leaf tray, probably their most famous form.

Now, you would be correct in saying that English manufacturers made begonia leaves too, but those English leaves are decidedly English looking, often glazed in shades of turquoise. There is no mistaking the classic Etruscan glazes shining on the technicolor screen though-- that classic combination of green, yellow and pink with the three central dots that distinguishes the Etruscan leaf from all the others is decidedly Griffen Smith's alone.

What a joy to find that the set decorators at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had such wonderful, if geographically inappropriate, taste!

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