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

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Minton Majolica Teapots: The Vulture and Snake Teapot

Honestly, is there anything more exquisite than a Minton majolica teapot? If you collect majolica, the answer is absolutely not! As anyone who collect majolica can tell you Minton, the creator of the form is still the master. The level of wit, craftsmanship and beauty Minton achieved has never been surpassed in the majolica body.

Of these the most ingenious Minton majolica teapot is also the rarest: the Minton vulture and snake teapot. Among the most valuable pieces of majolica in the world this design is remarkable in its design. The snake that's being attacked by the bird is both the teapot spout, handle and lid handle while the body of the bird makes up the container for the tea.





The teapot was designed by Colonel Henry Hope Crealock, a rather remarkable artist and military man. 
He gained his fame through his paintings and sketches of military life during the late Victorian period. They offered to the British public an intimate look of life in the British army during its great colonial campaigns in India, Africa, China and Russia. How he was engaged by Minton I don't know, but his choice of this classic theme of the triumph of good over evil seems a natural subject for him given his background.


Created in the early 1870's, this must have been a very fragile design because few have survived intact. The first time I saw one of these for sale was in an antiques co-op in the late 1980's. It had been broken into a dozen pieces and re-glued. Still it sold for $1,500 which seemed to me a remarkable price at the time for a piece that had essentially been completely destroyed. 

Today the price this teapot brings is outrageous. The example above which dates from 1873, sold at Christies in London for £22,100 ($43,139) in 2008. I think the record for this design must be the one that sold from the Karmason collection in 2005 by Majolica Auctions. It brought $71,875 (hammer price of $62,500 plus commission).  The most recent auction sales are down somewhat from that price. An example sold in November 2011 for $37,500

For those who can't afford such an extravagance, there are two limited edition reproductions available from the Minton Archive Collection from 1998-2001, a full color edition and an edition identified as Flambe




Made in an edition of 1000, these originally sold for $300 when new. They are now bringing about twice that at auction.

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