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

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Commonly Seen Majolica Reproductions That Many People Don't Know Are Reproductions

I think it's important to periodically remind dealers and collectors that reproduction majolica exists everywhere. I have written about these reproductions in the past but some of them are persistently still being offered as old ware by dealers who should know better. I'm not really surprised about this for a couple of reasons. There are some antiques dealers I've dealt with over the years who would auction their mothers for a sale. They have no problem whatsoever misrepresenting their merchandise.
There is also a younger group of dealers entering the market who aren't aware that many pieces that are taken for granted as being old simply aren't even they have always seen them. These dealers are too young to remember when many of these repros first flooded the market some 20+ years ago. It is really for the latter group that this post is intended.

The quality of majolica reproductions has improved remarkably since the early 1990's. It is because these pieces are so well done and effectively "aged" that they are difficult to detect. They are fired in the old manner using heritage glaze formulas.

One of the first of these I recall seeing are the blue fish head oyster plates in the Palissy style. I wrote about these back in January of 2011. They surfaced in the early 90s at a time that these Palissy oyster plates were bringing big money at auctions. What differentiated these reproductions from the originals were their glaze colors and nothing else. They were exact reproductions artistically made at a private pottery in the South. The reproductions had a blue ground while the antique plates had a green ground. They were being sold as new by a dealer in South Carolina then finding their way onto the secondary market as antiques. Unfortunately, they're still floating around today, fooling people who couldn't possibly know any different.

Antique Palissy oyster on the left and reproduction on the right
Another reproduction that has become common is the Arsenal Pottery plates. I wrote about these in April of this year.

Arsenal Pottery stag plate reproduction
Arsenal Pottery blackberry plate
Still another reproduction that I see constantly is a reproduction of a Wedgwood cheese bell. These surfaced in the mid 1990's and while the quality is appalling they are still fooling people.

Wedgwood cheese bell on the left and reproduction on the right
The same can actually be said of a number of other cheese bells from Asia. They are as badly made as  reproductions can be yet I still see them showing up at legitimate antique dealer's shops and on eBay.

George Jones majolica cheese bell on the left and reproduction on the right
English majolica cheese bell on the left and reproduction on the right
Etruscan majolica cheese bell on the left and Asian reproduction on the right
George Jones majolica cheese bell on the left and reproduction on the right
Minton majolica cheese bell on the left and reproduction on the right
One of the most damaging reproductions that I can recall has been the large cobalt crane pitcher. These are stained and artificially aged to look very old. They are so difficult to tell from the antiques that they ruined the market for the antique pitchers for over ten years because people were reluctant to buy them.

Antique majolica crane pitcher on the left and reproduction on the right
As I have said on numerous occasions, do your research before you buy and you won't be caught short with an antique that isn't so antique.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Majolica of the Chesapeake Pottery

The Chesapeake Pottery of Baltimore was founded in 1880 by brothers Henry and Isaac Brougham and partner John Tunstall. A small, single kiln operation of two buildings, the partners operated the business for two years before selling the company in 1882 to David Frances Haynes.

D. F. Haynes was an ambitious Massachusetts native who was apprenticed in the sale of pottery. He was familiar with the Baltimore pottery trade having worked in it since moving to the Baltimore area in 1858. Determined to bring locally produced quality ceramics to the American market he hired two experienced potters from England to oversee the production at his new factory: Frederick Hackney and Lewis Taft. Taft had previously worked at Brownfield at Stoke-on-Trent and Hackney had experience at Wedgwood and at Fielding. Hackney was also a specialist in majolica. It is he who is credited with bringing majolica-type wares to the Chesapeake Pottery.

The pottery operations expanded quickly, offering nine different lines of ceramics across the next five years. These included the majolica inspired lines of Avalon Faience, and Haynes Ware and a third, Clifton Decor, which is in the only line offered by the company that is glazed in the tradition of true Victorian majolica.

The Avalon Faience line was decorated in simple over-the-glaze monochromatic decoration trimmed in gold, similar to the decorated earthenware coming out of England and the Venicene line produced at the Phoenix Pottery. (Note: The term "faience" was used in the late Nineteenth Century to denote any pottery of decorative nature.)

Haynes Ware is usually covered in decal decoration with sections of color sprayed onto the pieces in a manner similar to some Continental ware. It was then finished with gold trim.

Clifton Decor followed the lead of Wedgwood and their Argenta line of majolica. The basic ground of ivory was maintained and the ware was decorated with colored glazes before firing. It is the most conventional of the three Haynes lines and the one that most purists would say is the only "true" Victorian majolica made by the company. It included some solid colored wares as well.

By 1887 financial strain forced Haynes to sell the pottery to Edwin Bennett, and the Chesapeake Pottery became a subsidiary of the Edwin Bennett Pottery Company.
In 1890, Haynes returned to the pottery, and entered into a limited partnership with Bennett. The Chesapeake Pottery operated under Haynes' supervision with the name of Haynes, Bennett and Company.

In 1895 Haynes bought out Bennett’s share and the company changed names once again to D.F. Haynes and Son. The company prospered for the next 14 years, winning ceramic awards at both the 1901 Buffalo Pan-American Exposition and at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

David Haynes’ genius was his sales and marketing acumen. His death in 1908 was the beginning of the end for the Chesapeake Pottery. Son Frank assumed proprietorship of the company after his father's passing but within two years sales began to decline. In 1914 the company entered liquidation proceedings and Haynes closed the pottery permanently. The pottery property was sold for demolition. Today the Domino Sugar factory occupies the site.

Haynes's pottery is not very popular today among traditional majolica collectors. Like the Wedgwood "Argenta" wares the white ground puts many people off. Collectors are usually attracted to majolica by the bright colors and Haynes majolica is the least colorful of them all. This shouldn't discourage you from buying it however if you find it attractive. As you can see by some of the photos, large groups can be quite stunning in their sophisticated beauty.

Haynes majolica has always been reasonably priced and remains so today.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Coming Soon!

The Majolica of Fives-Lille

The story of the majolica of Fives-Lille begins which Antione Gustave De Bruyn, a fourth generation potter from Belgium. In 1864 he left Belgium and moved to Fives-Lille, a community in the northern part of France to make his fortune in the French pottery trade.

He began by building his own factory for the production of clay pipes and whistles. Soon the business was expanded to include earthenware and stoneware for daily use. Art pottery and the newly popular majolica were incorporated into the company's catalog in 1887. Soon majolica became the body of choice for the production of humidors, jardinières, vases and umbrella stands. The company's silver medal at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1889, was a testament to its success.

Soon the company was employing 300+ locals in the production of majolica, sanitary wares and art pottery. The company's large European majolica and art pottery export trade attracted the attention of designers throughout France. Among those who collaborated with the pottery were Louis Majorelle, the designer of extraordinary art nouveau furniture and Rene Lalique who was famous for his distinctive jewelry and glassware. It took the onset of WWI and a devastating fire in 1917 to cut short the company's success.

By the mid 1920's the company was back to production. It enjoyed prosperity with Art Deco pottery and ceramic clocks until the early 1930's when economic and political factors in Europe shut down the factory. Closed for the duration of WWII, the pottery opened again after the war. It was sold in 1950 and resumed limited production until 1962 when the company was dissolved.

A look at the company catalog testifies to its success in majolica. The design of their whimsical animal pitchers and Art Nouveau flower themed wares remain their most popular work with collectors. They also made limited ware in the palissy style for collectors of that genre.

The company marked their wares with both impressed marks and ink marks but always in a variation of an anchor with the De Bruyn initials. Today, majolica prices for De Bruyn majolica have remained steady which speaks quite well for their enduring appeal.