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.


  1. Hi, Jimbo, I am new to Majolica, but have been doing some redecorating. I have received a wedgwood articulated plate with the dolphins pedestal. It is stamped just Wedgwood and what looks like GSA.

    But I got this other piece, to try to coordinate. I don't know how to post a picture. It is just stamped 17. Dubiously marked as "antique". It is attractive but the base is warped and rocks so I don't think it is a well made piece of pottery. Basically, I wanted to find out if you think it is either Pier One or World Market.

    I will be reading more about Majolica on your very informative blog. Thank you for making this information available.

  2. *reticulated!

    I am not articulate. ;)

  3. Jimbo, if you would be so kind, I uploaded a couple photos of the questionable piece, I also included a picture of the Wedgwood piece. I would appreciate any light you can shed on it. Thanks.


    1. Your two pieces are very nice. As you deduced yourself, the reticulated piece is Wedgwood. The other piece is also of English origin although these, to the best of my knowledge, have never been found marked. It is definitely antique majolica. Like the Wedgwood piece, this design can also be found as plates and tall stands.
      The GSA on the underside of the Wedgwood piece is the company date code. Your piece was made in September of 1872.
      The 17 on the other piece is most likely a decorator's number.

  4. Wow, Jimbo, the other large platter, although pretty, doesn't seem to be as well made as the Wedgwood, although Wedgwood pieces seem to be known as meticulous, but you obviously are familiar enough with this subject to be able to verify it as English, as well as an antique. Do you think it is 19th century? I thank you very much and for being able to date the Wedgwood piece. I tried looking at your graph for Wedgwood majolica and got a little confused with trying to put it together so I appreciate your input very much! Thank you!

    1. The platter is definitely 19th century. I personally owned a full set of this pattern many years ago

      Not all manufacturers did as finely detailed work as others. Minton, George Jones and Wedgwood probably did the the most refined majolica though other manufacturers like Copeland and Brown, Westhead Moore also did very fine work.
      These pieces were decorated by hand. The more skilled decorators were paid by the piece. The less skilled were paid by the hour. This can account for variation in quality even within these companies with some pieces by a manufacturer looking better than others. Smaller companies who could not afford to hire skilled painters sometimes employed untrained women and children to do their decorating. This is why there is such a disparity in quality between some pieces of majolica and others.

    2. Thank you, Jimbo. I have collected other pieces of pottery from Staffordshire and it sounds very familiar to the history I have read about the region's pottery making. I actually think the decorating is done fairly well, but I have noticed the molding reliefs were not as refined or uneven in spots in addition to the rocking bottom and that is what made me question its origin. Your verification is very reassuring. As available as the antique figures and dogs are, they are being copied today but one can tell the difference. Perhaps the copiers are concentrating on the more known pieces of majolica such as you have noted above. The Wedgwood has had damage and repaired, but it was probably the only way to get the dolphins in my budget. It is very enjoyable to look at so I am very pleased.

      All of this is very fascinating, your blog is very informative and your work put into it is very much appreciated!