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

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sculpture Victorious: Art in an Age of Invention, 1837–1901

We found ourselves making the two hour sojourn to New Haven recently to view two of the finest examples of majolica ever potted. The Yale Center for British Art is hosting an exhibition of sculpture during the reign of Queen Victoria, Sculpture Victorious: Art in the Age of Invention, 1837-1901. Among the 135 objects of marble and bronze included in the show are two monumental pieces of majolica: one of the Thomas Goode Minton elephants and the Minton peacock.

The elephant, a seven foot tall masterpiece of majolica, is one of two commissioned by Thomas Goode for the 1889 Exhibition Universelle in Paris, the same exhibition that brought the world the Eiffel Tower. They were modeled by Thomas Longmore and John Hénk for Minton & Co.

The elephants appeared to great acclaim at the show after which they were placed in the Thomas Goode shop window in Mayfair. There they have stood ever since. 

A masterpiece of decorative art I believe this is the first time one of the elephants has been shown in the United States. Seven feet tall, the gilded majolica elephant stands on a base of carved ebony and majolica tile. The detail is astonishing.

In addition to the elephant in the show, there is also an example of the Minton majolica peacock which is on loan from an American collector. Modeled in 1873 by sculptor Paul Comolera it predates the elephant by about 15 years.

Though we were not permitted to photograph the peacock we have written about it several times before: here, and here, and here. Only a handful are known to survive so having an opportunity to see one up close was a rare treat.

The show also includes extraordinary works in precious metals such as The Eglinton Trophy and The First Class Badge of the Order of Victoria and Albert.

In all it is a lovely show embracing sculpture in a wide variety of media.

It runs through November 30 at Yale at which time it will move to the Tate gallery in Britain. There it will run from February 25 to May 25, 2015.