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

Monday, November 12, 2012

Etruscan Majolica Rarities

Most majolica collectors and dealers are familiar with Etruscan Majolica, but most of them have no idea of the breadth of pieces potted by the company. The Etruscan Works made more than just leaves and Shell dinnerware. They made animals and umbrella stands and many, many other things. Today we'll share a few of these rarer pieces made by the company.

Most people who collect Etruscan have no idea that the company made a number of pieces with a corn theme. One of the rarest of these is the Etruscan Corn teapot. Made in two different sizes, this teapot is almost never seen. Listed in their 1884 catalog but not shown, this was an early design that was discontinued early in the company's history. It's a beautiful design but it's flawed: the teapot lid does not stay in place when the pot is poured. This is because unlike most of the company's other teapots there is a shallow flange, not a deep flange on the inside of the lid. If you're lucky to find one, chances are it will have a broken or missing lid. If you find one that's complete, snap it up because you may never see another one for sale again.

The Etruscan holy water font was a specialty piece designed by a local Pennsylvania man, Francis Malloy. Very little is known about the production history of the font as it is not mentioned in any Etruscan literature. The font is never marked as Etruscan either, bearing only the patent notice of Mr. Malloy on the base.
The font comes in two parts. The lid of the font is in the shape of a cup which allows for the distribution of water. At the edge of the cup is a small notch for the placement of a small reliquary. The lid lifts up to allow water to be easily added to the font. Because most have never seen it and because of its unconventional design it's not uncommon to find the two parts sold separately.
The font was probably made to special order as only a few complete examples are known to exist.  This one is another must: buying one of these will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Don't pass it up!

There is really no good reason why the Etruscan spice tray is as rare as it is. It was listed as a regular catalog item in the Etruscan catalog of 1884 and doesn't appear to be particularly delicate despite its small size. Yet it is almost never seen. Stylistically it fits in very comfortably with the other Etruscan wares and would be a beautiful, and useful addition to any collection.

The Etruscan jewel holder is as delicate and as rare as a piece of majolica can be. In our book The Majolica of Griffen Smith and Company, we put forth the theory that its rarity might be attributed to it being a speciality order item. It's known that the company's three dolphin themed pieces were production nightmares for the pottery because the greenware broke very easily. To get around this they may have only been made to order. No one knows for sure. All we know that they are as rare as hen's teeth today.

Those familiar with the Etruscan Baseball pitcher will immediately recognize the design motifs on the above umbrella stand. Copied from the Wedgwood soccer jug this design was used to create tumblers, pitchers, syrups, vases and garniture sets. Most likely dating from the Phoenix Pottery's latter years these pieces are usually glazed monochromatically with gold highlights and are never marked. They can also be found with decal decoration.

We've really only scratched the surface of the wide variety of majolica made at the Phoenix Pottery. If you'd like to learn more pick up a copy of our book on the Etruscan Majolica catalog. We've listed there every known surviving shape made at the Etruscan Works along with a price guide.

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