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

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Majolica Classics: Cornbread Tray

If you're just starting a majolica collection there are certain pieces that you absolutely must have. These pieces are so widely acknowledged to be exceptional examples of the craft that a collection just wouldn't be complete without them. In classical music they use the term "warhorse" to describe these works. In popular music they're called "standards." Here, we have a series called "Majolica Classics" to acknowledge these pieces in majolica that are so widely admired.
This wonderful piece I'm inducting into this majolica hall of fame is the humble cornbread tray.


This pattern, by the English firm of Adams & Bromley, has a simple art nouveau flair that seems to appeal to everyone! I know that seems a bold statement but I honestly have never met a collector who didn't love this design.

My guess is that this tray, like many of the corn pieces made in Great Britain, were made with an eye towards the American export market, where the use of cornmeal was most common. It is found in one of two colorways: brown basket weave with yellow corn and green leaves; and yellow basket weave and corn with green leaves. To this best of my knowledge it was only made by the company in one size. I have seen smaller examples but they are always of inferior craftsmanship, which makes me believe they were copies, like the one below, made contemporary to the original by smaller potteries.


The company that made the tray also made a cheese stand with the same design and at least two pitchers that matched it as well, but it is the tray itself that entrances the viewer.


Today the pattern is generally found in the yellow version with the brown version considerably less common but they are both beautiful and a must-have for any serious collector.

As long as I have been buying majolica (almost 30 years) the price for the tray has remained pretty consistent selling in the $225-$400 range so it is within the price range for most collectors.

And even if it isn't, you just never know when you'll come across a bargain for less than that.

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