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

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Majolica Napkin Plates

The napkin plate seems to be another of those peculiarly unique Victorian conceits. Made in a number of different bodies, napkin plates flourished in majolica, no doubt because the level of realism majolica offered. Popular in both Europe and the United States, most of the major potteries made some version of it.
For those unfamiliar with the design, a napkin plate tries to imitate the look of a napkin laid on top of a china or basket weave plate. The plate is always visible to some degree with the sole exception of the napkin designs made by Sarreguemines. These are designed to look like plates inside folded napkins.

In Great Britain, George Jones led the way with a number of different designs. Their Strawberry Server and Horse Chestnut designs are particularly well known, having been made in prodigious quantities. While white napkins are the most common on these designs I have also seen them in turquoise, cobalt and pink.

Minton made several napkin plates.

Wedgwood's napkin plate is particularly attractive with its checkered napkin.

This tazza, believed to be by Fielding, is also a napkin plate.

In the United States both the Etruscan Works and Morley Offered napkin plates...

...while on the continent, a number of companies embraced the form.

The egg basket  and box directly above are part of the series I mentioned at the start of this post, a large series made by Sarreguemines that uses folded napkins as a basis for containers and platters. It is the idea of the napkin plate taken to its logical conclusion: a napkin by itself as a plate. You really can't take this idea any further than that!

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