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

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Majolica Asparagus Servers



Spring is finally here across North America and Europe, and if there is one vegetable most associated with Spring it is asparagus. Asparagus plates are probably the single most abundant servers found in majolica today. This is a result of the vegetable's immense popularity in Europe.
A native plant of Europe and Asia, asparagus has been under cultivation since at least the time of the the pharaoh. Its popularity in central and northwestern Europe however, is unequal to anywhere else in the world. All over Germany there are asparagus festivals to celebrate the first harvest of the season, asparagus contests to find the the fastest asparagus peelers, asparagus routes (sort of the equivalent of a bar hop but in asparagus) as well as the crowning of an Asparagus Queen! Needless to say this kind of acclaim accounts for the astounding variety of asparagus items in continental majolica.

One of the interesting facts about majolica asparagus servers is how the particular variety of asparagus featured on the majolica varies depending on the market the potter serves. Green tipped asparagus is favored in the UK. Hence the majolica servers from that area feature that variety on their majolica. In Germany and Belgium, white and purple tipped asparagus is preferred, so the servers potted for that market feature white asparagus. France, where most asparagus items are made, also created plates which incorporate artichokes, which are popular with the French market.

Asparagus majolica can usually be broken down into four types: Asparagus cradles; individual asparagus plates; serving items like sauce boats, pitchers and platters; and combination asparagus and artichoke plates.

Let's take a look at some asparagus cradles. These are sometimes potted as a cradle with a separate underplate that can serve as a platter, and sometimes potted in a single piece, like the famous Minton asparagus cradle. Drainage holes are common on the cradle.





English majolica cradle
Salins majolica asparagus platter





Creil Montereau majolica asparagus server

Minton Majolica asparagus cradle
Then we have the individual plates. These commonly have a separate section for dipping sauce.
Minton Individual Asparagus  Server
Orchies majolica
Wasmuel Asparagus plate

Creil Montereau asparagus plate
Longchamps majolica plate

Orchies majolica

Salins majolica plate
Wasmuel majolica asparagus plate
Longchamps majolica
Luneville asparagus plate


Sauce boats and separate platters are commonly made with asparagus themes.

Luneville asparagus sauce boat 

Julius Dresser majolica server

Julius Dresser asparagus server


And finally there are combination artichoke and asparagus servers. These are most commonly made by potters in France where artichokes are popular.

Orchies French majolica 

Fives Lille combination asparagus/artichoke plate
K G Luneville asparagus/artichoke server

The cost of asparagus pieces vary. Many companies in Europe still make asparagus majolica so one needs to be sure the piece they are considering is antique. Add to that the large number of asparagus pieces that were produced in the last quarter of the 19th Century and the cost of the antique plates has maintained a steady price of about $100 a plate. Servers and cradles generally sell in the $250-$350 range with some particularly desirable designs like the Minton cradle usually selling in the $800-$1000 range.

The variety available in majolica asparagus plates is endless. These are but a few of the examples we found online but with a little investigation of your own you're bound to find a design that fits into your collection.

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