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

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Our Majolica Music Association Game

Do you ever find yourself drawing associations between artworks of different mediums?

Let me give you an example. Whenever I Hear Saint-Saëns' "Swan" from "Carnival of the Animals" I think of John Everett Millais painting, "Ophelia." There's no real reason for that association as Saint-Saëns clearly was illustrating his idea of a swan's movements. Still, that little piece of music always brings up that image of the drowned Ophelia floating mournfully in the water.

John Everett Millais "Ophelia"
Here's another example. The piece "Aquarium" from that same Saint-Saëns piece brings to mind Van Gogh's "Wheatfields' with its glistening, wavering wheat and flock of birds.

Vincent Van Gogh's "Wheatfields"
The same types of associations come up when I see certain pieces of pottery. I cannot look at Minton's majolica Crusader matchbox without thinking of "Liebestod" from Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde." Tristan lies on his bier as Isolde mourns beside him.

Minton majolica Crusader match box
Of course these are entirely subjective but if you'll indulge me it's a fun way to test your knowledge. I thought it might be amusing to expand this game to other pieces of majolica as well.

The first one that comes to mind is the imperious majolica Barrister pitcher which says one thing to me– Scarpia in Puccini's "Tosca". No more imperious figure exists in all of majolica as far as I know, a perfect match for the grasping, vain Scarpia.

Majolica Barrister pitcher
Then we have Rusalka from Dvorák's opera of the same name. Can't you just picture Minton's mermaid jug figure singing her "Song to the Moon" praying for the love of her mortal prince?

Minton majolica "Askos" jug

There are a couple of pieces that remind me of Wagner's "Ring Cycle" operas, one of my favorites.
The Royal Worcester majolica Hunter brings to mind "Forest Murmur's" from "Der Ring des Nibelungen's" "Siegfried."

Royal Worcester's "Hunter"

Then of course, there is also Brünnhilde's horse Grane who flies through the skies in the famous "Ride of the Valkyries" from "Die Walkure" and later carries her into Sigefried's funeral pyre in "Götterdämmerung."  What more fitting majolica piece than the majestic Sarreguemines "Horse Head" pitcher.

It would be a serious omission to neglect "Vesti La Giubba" from Leoncavallo's "Pagliacci." For that we'll choose one of the Austrian clown humidors.

Clown head humidor
The beautiful Wedgwood jewel carrier which would fit into so many contexts we'll pick for the Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin.

Wedgwood majolica jewelry casket

For Brown, Westhead Moore's Egyptian garden seat what could be more fitting than Verdi's Amneris in the fourth act aria finale from "Aida" praying for Radames' soul.

BW&M "Egyptian" garden seat
This game gets kind of addictive after a while. It works backwards too; choose a piece of pottery and try to come up with an appropriate piece of music. I could go on and on but I'll finish up with a lighthearted piece from Meredith Wilson's "The Music Man" –"Pick A Little,-Talk A Lot" which deserves nothing less than a Massier majolica bird opus!

Massier bird planter

Give the game a try yourself! It's fun!

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