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

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Couple of New Reproductions

Every time we see a new majolica reproduction our heart sinks a little bit.

Reproductions have ruined the market for so many different types of antiques, it looks like the majolica market may eventually prove to be another of them. Still recovering from a recession that has cut the price of most majolica in half, the added burden of more reproductions flooding the market can only do more damage. Today we saw a couple of new repros online. One could never be considered a serious threat to the market but the other one could.

We've written countless times here about reproductions entering the market but as long as they look like this reproduction Forester/Etruscan butterfly spout pitcher below, they should cause no harm.

No one familiar with the antique Etruscan and Forester jugs would confuse the above pitcher for the real thing shown below, but the market for this piece is not knowledgable dealers.

It's aimed at new collectors coming into the market that don't know enough about antiques to know the difference. Considering how reasonable these two antique pitchers are to buy right now, why would anyone want the cheesy reproduction? Forester was one of the most prodigious majolica makers in Nineteenth century Britain. There's plenty of Forester majolica available. There's plenty of the Etruscan version as well. This supply has always kept the price of both of these pitchers reasonable to the average collector, particularly now that prices are down.

The reproduction we saw today that disturbed us is the one below.

We had to look at the images of the pitcher carefully to determine if it was a reproduction and not an antique variation of the original because it's very well done. The moment we saw it though, we knew something was wrong.  On the other hand there was a lot about it that looked right as well. 

The pitcher it is mimicking is the pitcher shown below, made by Shorter and Boulton. 

As you can see the shape of the pitcher is a little off but the first thing that came to our attention wasn't the shape, it was the strange glazes. Dark purple-red is just not a common Victorian majolica color. In fact it was almost never used. When we saw that it also lined the interior of the jug, we knew something was seriously wrong. Only the French use a glaze even remotely similar to line their pitchers, a deep red glaze, but this was decidedly purple-red. Besides, this is an English design made so it would normally have a majolica pink interior. The mottled handle looks right though, and the green used on the leaves is a reasonable facsimile to some kinds of Victorian majolica green. The base looks convincing as well, with stilt marks clearly visible.

The give away that makes us believe it is a modern pitcher is the yellow glaze that lines the top and bottom rims. Firstly, it is the wrong color yellow for Victorian majolica--it is closer to a milky ochre than yellow--but more than that it is an opaque yellow. The yellow generally used in majolica is either a rich deep thin cadmium like the glaze of the antique pitcher or a clear translucent yellow as seen in the antique Etruscan pitcher shown above. The way this thick opaque yellow glaze bleeds into the purple interior is simply not seen in antique majolica as far as we know. 

If we further analyze the shape, the way the rim is thick and the way the interior is not smooth like the interior of a Victorian majolica piece of hollowware is another give away. The interior shows the hollowed out reverse shape of the exterior modeling. That is a common trait of cheap, modern pottery manufacture that is never seen in Victorian majolica.

Shorter did make a version of this pitcher during the early Twentieth Century but it looked quite different and was always marked "Shorter."

Perhaps it's an easier reproduction to detect in person than in online photos but any reproduction that makes us look more than once disturbs us. If it is good enough to even momentarily fool a seasoned buyer than it could certainly fool a novice or general antiques dealer. That's not a good thing for the market or for the collector.