What reached Stoke-on-Trent from Paris? Coloured glazes.
Could a Frenchman’s success with coloured glazes be repeated in England as majolica? Herbert Minton thought so. Leon Arnoux is appointed Art Director in 1848 with the right know-how and at just the right time to make it happen.Read More
Look into a tiny corner of the enthralling world of antique Victorian Staffordshire pottery spaniels. These are a type of pottery ‘figure’ made in the UK between 1837 and 1900. Typically they were decorated with coloured enamels over a plain lead glaze.
At the height of British Empire, with a strong economy, and a popular Queen, you would likely be interested in buying such a figure for your mantlepiece. At the height of madness in today’s world, you might be thinking of investing in a piece of history.
Victorian Staffordshire pottery
With the accession of an attractive young Queen, the potteries went to work producing figures celebrating herself, her marriage,
and her children, nine in all. Note the Staffordshire potters exploiting all selling points: children of the Queen, charming dogs almost as large as the children, and kilts to remind us of the Queen’s love of Scotland.
Deeply concerned with the Crimean War (1854-56), her armed forces, her alliances, generals and victories were further subjects for the potters of Staffordshire to portray.
At least the potters spared us tartan for the young people prepared to die.
Two Famous Women
The outstanding character, it could be said, of the Crimean War was no ally, general, or politician friend of the Queen.
It was instead, Florence Nightingale. She fought the Army Generals to allow her to serve. She brought organisation and medical discipline to the shambles that were army hospitals supporting the fighting men. Before her time thousands died unnecessarily of their wounds.
Returning from the war, she wrote the first ever book on practical Nursing, and founded the first ever Nursing School.
Another celebrated individual, memoirs first published in 1838, was the remarkable Lady Hester Stanhope.
In 1876 two female novelists George Eliot and Louisa May Alcott, both celebrated her very remarkable originality of thought and extraordinary expeditions that had been conducted earlier in the century. Her archaeological expedition to Palestine was the first ever dig allowed in that country. The accumulation of publicity made a great impact on the general public.
Thus, mounted on a camel and dressed as a male Arab, she had become a suitable subject for a pottery figure.
For some interesting dates, spaniel figures, other breeds and animals please read on by clicking 2… Read More
Majolica-makers’ marks not present… How do you know it is George Jones?
Majolica-makers’ marks are sure way to identify a manufacturer. Some marks will also date an item. Marks may be impressed, embossed or printed. Or written in script over the glaze, or ‘in reserve’.
Marked majolica is generally indicative of quality.
Unmarked majolica makes up the bulk of majolica production. Makers were inconsistent. Some marked everything, some just a few pieces, many marked only the main piece of a set or service.
Note: ‘Majolica’ in this article refers to earthenware of coloured lead glazes, applied simultaneously to an unglazed body, and fired. Typically hard-wearing, molded in relief, with vibrant colours in a variety of styles and forms.
Makers who marked almost all their wares…
Minton & Co.
Minton was perhaps the most consistent. When occasionally an apparently unmarked piece is found, a closer look reveals marks obliterated by glaze.
Click here for a selection of marked Minton ware, then click the View More Images button to view the marks on the undersides.
Wedgwood were also reasonably consistent. Most pieces were marked with an impressed makers mark. Many had the three letter date code in addition.
Other makers marked some pieces, but by no means all, e.g. George Jones, Holdcroft, and Brown Westhead Moore.
Jones was reasonably consistent with the pattern number, but very often omitted the name or monogram. The factory never used any date code or cypher. But the mark generally gives a clue to the date of manufacture.
Here is a G Jones jug which has no maker’s marks, being part of, probably, a tea service, pattern number 3368.
=&0=&=&1=&, ‘Also known as the ‘British Registry Lozenge’ or the ‘British Pattern Registration Diamond’ mark, when present and legible, tells us the date the pattern was registered. The registration procedure was set up in 1842 to combat plagiarism, making it illegal to copy that pattern for a period of three years. Letters and numbers in the four corners specify the exact date of registration. The system was sufficiently successful that its use continued throughout the majolica period and beyond. Note: The year of pattern registration is not necessarily the year of manufacture but does indicate a ‘circa’ date.[/read]
These rare plates have an uncanny likeness to the real dwarf elephant ear plant Alocosia Jenningsii.
Here is that British Pattern Registry Office mark on another adorable Jones piece…
Holdcroft’s output was usually unmarked. How do you know it is Holdcroft? By observing certain characteristic glazes, by an occasional marked piece to reference, and by publications current and contemporary, notably advertising and exhibition reports.
How did that happen? Why not simply Earthenware decorated with coloured lead glazes = Majolica; Tin-glazed earthenware painted with enamels = =&0=&?
Other blogs refer. Today we look at how it might have happened.
Majolica Product. Was LEAD the elephant in the room?
Can we imagine any circumstance under which Leon Arnoux, “the man who made Mintons” might lie?
What if there was a threat to his future well-being? Or to that of the owner, Herbert Minton? Or to their sons, daughters, grandchildren and workforce?
We guess that would do it. Yes, Arnoux does seem to have lied in 1853 when he said “Lead is very little used now…”[read more=”Click here to Read More” less=”Read Less”]
Lead was essential to the success of the pottery industry. Furthermore, sales were about to increase at the Minton factory due to the new ‘Palissy’ earthenware with coloured lead glazes.
But lead in the glazes is killing workers. Average life expectancy of a ‘dipper’ is 26 years only. Health care watchdogs are campaigning to reduce soluble lead levels. The pottery industry, its leaders and shareholders seem like in public to be trying, but in private they are resisting reform. Borax lacks the winning sparkle of lead, and is more expensive.
majolica product. Alternative Facts
Anything Arnoux can do to divert attention away from LEAD, he must consider. So when asked to lecture “On Ceramic Manufactures, Porcelain and Pottery” he decides to be economical with the truth. In fact LEAD is very much used now (1852). He quotes a large amount of borax. Most noteworthy, he neglects to provide the figure for lead.
During the lecture there is no mention of Minton’s ‘Palissy ware’. The product that was to become wildly fashionable and mass-produced. The majolica of coloured lead glazes that we know and love. Minton had named it ‘Palissy ware’ but soon allowed –possibly encouraged – the name ‘majolica’ to be used for both. [read more=”Click here to Read More” less=”Read Less”]
From Arnoux’s own notebook [date unknown] a formula for a lead glaze used on majolica is reproduced in Joan Jones’ book (1993). The glaze would have been coloured by the addition of one or other metal oxide.
That is 51 per cent red lead (a form of lead oxide) by weight. Nearly six times more lead than borax…
a little way to go before borax is substituted for lead, right Leon?
Majolica product. Another source of confusion
That lecture, by Leon Arnoux in 1852, is interesting for another very important reason…
Everyone today knows that the Minton factory named their majolica product with coloured lead glazes ‘Palissy ware’. Their tin-glazed earthenware in imitation of Italian maiolica they named ‘Majolica’. Minton’s ‘Palissy’ became known as ‘majolica’. Minton’s ‘Majolica’ stayed as ‘majolica’. As a result there were now two distinctly different products with the same name.
majolica n. The Four Senses
Add two more meanings of the word to arrive at today’s four meanings, four senses of the word ‘majolica’. [read more=”Click here to Read More” less=”Read Less”]
An alternative spelling for Maiolica: Any tin-glazed earthenware with opaque white glaze decorated with metal oxide enamel colour(s). Prone to flaking, reached Italy mid 15th century, Renaissance Italian maiolica became a celebrated art form. Maiolica developed also as faience (France), and delft (UK and Netherlands). Commonly known as ‘tin-glazed earthenware’.
Any earthenware decorated with coloured lead glazes applied directly to an unglazed body. Hard-wearing, typically relief molded. Minton’s ‘Palissy ware’ range of new colours, also known as ‘majolica’, was introduced at the 1851 Exhibition and later widely copied and mass produced. Commonly known as ‘lead-glazed majolica’.
English tin-glazed earthenware in imitation of Italian Renaissance maiolica having an opaque white glaze with fine painted decoration. Also named ‘majolica’. Also introduced at the 1851 Exhibition. Very rare. Commonly known as ‘English tin-glazed majolica’.
Victorian Majolica – Majolica manufactured in England between 1850 and 1900 of Sense 3. English tin-glazed majolica – earthenware in imitation of Italian Renaissance maiolica, very rare, or Sense 2. Lead-glazed majolica – earthenware decorated with coloured lead glazes, of every conceivable form, and in style frequently naturalistic and typically with an element of High Victorian whimsy.
Differences between the majolica products not understood
Unfortunately, the differences were not widely understood until 1999. But by then four major books on majolica had already been published.
Authors had not fully appreciated that when Arnoux in 1852 said “We understand by majolica…” he was describing only the tin-glazed product, imitation Italian maiolica.
Today, many glazes are lead-free. Nothing has been found to equal the depth and vibrancy of Minton’s lead glazes. There will never be anything better.
Areas of no confusion
There was no confusion (above) in the cataloguing at the exhibition of medieval art, by the Society of Arts, published in the Journal of Design and Manufactures, Vol. III (1850).
There was no confusion in the list of branches [products] that Digby Wyatt promises to examine in some little detail [English way of saying ‘in great detail’.]
There was no confusion in the factory.
Even the 1871 Art Materials catalogue lists Majolica (tin-glaze imitation Italian maiolica) and Palissy (colored lead glazes) as distinct.Read More
Our ongoing quest is for unambiguous evidence illustrating the four senses in which the word MAJOLICA is used including MAIOLICA. This blog takes a look at
Citations mentioning Flower Vases
from about 1848 onward. Questions arise. Was a ‘flower vase’ the same thing as a ‘flower pot’? Were authors’ descriptions of materials, processes and styles reliable? Was lead-poisoning the reason why processes are mentioned very little and materials – lots of lead in there – mentioned not at all?
The Four Senses, including maiolica n.
1. majolica n. An alternative spelling for maiolica n.
maiolica n. Any tin-glazed earthenware with opaque whitish glaze and brush painted decoration, typically prone to flaking. Reaching Italy mid-15th century, Renaissance Italian maiolica became a celebrated art form. Maiolica developed also as faience (France), and delft (UK and Netherlands).Read More
We will remember the MIS Convention of August 2016 for a very long time, especially for the collections of maiolica majolica. If you ever wondered what you would value most after joining the Society…Read More
Madelena Antiques Buy, sell and discover lead glaze majolica, Staffordshire figures, Moorcroft, Wedgwood lustre and other specialities including antique samplers and embroideries
Majolica International Society Relish the outstanding Karmason Library of Victorian Majolica objects, membership, conventions, book lists, newsletters and much more
You will love this…
First, technical information on lead glaze
=&0=&, a brief history of how lead glazes developed
=&1=&, a comparison of the two most important glazes, lead and tin
Fourth, important, authoritative sources for reference
Lead Glaze technical information
All lead glazes are
A mix of silicates (sand or flint that is to become glass) + potash (or similar alkali flux to get the sand to melt at a manageable temperature) + lead oxide (enables the glass mixture to fuse to the clay ‘biscuit’ body and also raises the viscosity improving coverage)
Vibrant and translucent in appearance due to their high refractive index
Fired (baked) at fairly high temperature (800 degrees Centigrade), high enough to fuse the lead glazes (glass mixture) to the biscuit, producing, literally, a lead-glass layer fused to the clay body beneath.
Is there an easy way of recognising glazing by colored lead glazes? Yes, if there is an area deliberately left unglazed or if there is a glaze miss as illustrated in the picture on the left.
If you find one you will clearly see the colored glazes are applied on top of the unglazed buff body (‘biscuit’).
How Lead Glazes developed
Two thousand or so years after they were first discovered, lead glazes reached perfection at the Mintons factory in England 1850 to 1880. The technical genius responsible was Leon Arnoux. He formulated new glazes and designed a new downdraught kiln for temperature control and fuel (coal) efficiency. He would be known later as ‘the man who made Mintons’. His colored majolica lead glazes were imitated or copied world wide. Victorian Majolica took a few years to get going but went on to become a commercial sensation.
So where did it all begin? Definitely not in Majorca!
CIRCA 100AD Roman
Lead-glaze on clay pots to solve the problem of porosity has been found throughout the Roman Empire which extended from North Africa to the north of England.
CIRCA 700AD Sancai
The Chinese made lead-glazed figures as well as pots. Wow. This masterpiece pre-dates Bernard Palissy by 800 years.
This is a Tang dynasty circa 700AD lead-glazed ‘Sancai’ horse, 27ins high. Sancai means ‘three colors’.
The ‘biscuit’ is painted with ‘solid’ colored lead glazes and fired. Note the green glaze color run. Note the way the potter has used the natural buff biscuit color covered with plain lead glaze as part of the decoration.
What came next?
Circa 1300 Marzacotto
Glaze technology is as much art as science. Advances come with trial and error. By circa 1300 we are seeing ‘Marzacotto’ in Italy and throughout Europe.
The big difference here was the use of ‘slip’ and a new color or two.
C Fortnum Drury, writing in 1875, quotes Passieri, the earliest known author on the technology of ceramics
=&2=& sees a profusion of ‘underglaze painted figures’ also known as ‘Prattware’ by figure makers in England. The lead glaze goes on top. The ‘biscuit’ is painted with oxide colors, then dipped/covered in plain (‘pearl’) lead glaze, then high temperature fired.
Circa 1780 ‘Enamel painted figures’ were appearing. Lead glaze underneath, colours on top. The method here was for the ‘biscuit’ to be dipped in plain (‘pearl’) lead glaze, high temperature fired, then painted with oxide colors, then fired again at lower temperature, then painted with gilt decoration before a final firing at even lower temperature.
By circa 1830 ‘green ware’ dessert services were being marketed by Wedgwood, Brameld (ceased trading in 1843) and others. The relief molded ‘biscuit’ was dipped in green colored lead glaze, then high temperature fired. ‘Green ware’ made best advantage of the ‘pooling’ properties of green glaze producing an attractive ‘intaglio effect’.
Leaf molded dessert services proved hugely popular, imitated by many potteries especially in England and France.
Circa 1850 – Majolica Perfection
(majolica, also known as maiolica, also known as majolica pottery, victorian majolica, antique majolica, antique majolica pottery or vintage majolica)
Arnoux develops a range of lead glazes creating the product Mintons called ‘Palissy ware‘. The public knew it only as ‘majolica‘. Today it is generally known as ‘VictorianMajolica‘. First made by Minton, thereafter copied throughout Europe and USA.
Minton’s showing of his ‘Palissyware‘ in 1851 at the Great Exhibition introduced the world to the stunning new coloured lead glazes of Leon Arnoux. These were applied direct to the biscuit body. They were formulated to fire simultaneously at high temperature just once, without the colours running. What an achievement!
Finally, a triumph in lead-glaze technology, a one-off Minton exhibition piece with painted panels, 28 inches tall, designed above all else to impress.
The painter is Emile Jeannest. The vibrant colored lead glazes above and below are what we expect.
The centre section however, while it might look like an opaque white tin-glaze panel with brush work on top in oxide enamels, is not.
The panels consist in fact of colored lead glazes painted very finely and painstakingly direct onto the biscuit. A final lead glaze covering was added before final firing.
Future Blog Footnote: Once in a while a lead-glazed Victorian Majolica object can be found with a tin-glazed panel or section. Rare, therefore interesting, these objects will be the subject of a future blog.
A comparison – lead glaze cf. tin glaze
Most writers and all dictionaries have been woefully vague regarding the distinctive composition and qualities of lead-glazed pottery vs. tin-glazed pottery. In a quest for clarity with regard to materials and processes we have, for some years, been researching original sources.
So what is the difference, and why does it matter?
The growing merchant classes of Victorian England, the ‘new money’, were attracted not only by the exciting new styles developing at the same time as coloured-lead-glaze majolica, but also by the relatively low cost and durability/usability.
Difference in Materials – Tin glaze is lead glaze with added TIN
Circa 1460 knowledge of the tin-glaze method reached Italy. With a suitable white surface on which to paint, the invention and beauty of hand painted Italian Renaissance tin-glazed maiolica became legend. Minton so admired these creations that he determined, with the help of Arnoux, to reproduce as far as possible both the method and style.
Tin glaze is lead glaze with added tin oxide. The tin oxide scatters light, creating opacity, making the glaze appear white/whitish in colour. Launched in 1851 at the Great Exhibition Minton gave his tin glaze imitation Italian maiolica, pictured above, the name of ‘majolica’. Awkward.
Cost of Production – Lead-glazed has one less process
Tin-glazed earthenware is biscuit body, typically flat surface, dipped or coated with tin glaze and allowed to dry, unfired. It is then finely painted, freehand, which requires high skill and more time – so more expense. The brushwork is applied to the dry unfired tin-glaze. Then it is fired. Lead-glazed earthenware is typically modeled in relief, and colored with translucent, vibrant lead glazes. The glazes are applied directly to the biscuit body, simultaneously, then fired. One less process, the ‘dipping’, means less cost.
Note the intense vibrant ‘block-painted’ colors of Minton’s lead glazes. The figures are of plain lead glaze, no colour.
Depth and strength of color contributed greatly to the success of majolica.
Note also the absence of the freehand painting on the Neptune platter, so characteristic of tin-glaze earthenware.
Tin glaze was less durable than lead glaze so less suitable for heavy domestic or outdoor use.
[So few examples are known, we cannot be sure this generalisation applies to Minton’s English tin-glazed ware. Ed.]
A gorgeous example of 15th century Italian tin glaze maiolica is in the Metropolitan Museum.
Note the flaking.
Note also the overall coverage of the ‘dipped’ opaque white tin glaze.
Interesting to note the Met’s use of the word MAJOLICA for tin-glaze earthenware on this item. [Most Met. tin-glazed items have now been changed to MAIOLICA . Ed., Jan 2017.] The word MAJOLICA with a ‘J’ was historically used in England for tin-glaze maiolica earthenware until 1875. Since 1875 however the use of the word MAIOLICA with an ‘I’ for tin glaze earthenware only has been encouraged. Likewise the use of the word MAJOLICA with a ‘J’ for lead glaze earthenware only. -This seems like good common sense
‘Maiolica’ for Italian tin-glazed earthenware.
‘Tin-glazed’ or ‘Delft’ or ‘Faience’ or ‘Tin-glaze Majolica’ for Minton’s rare product’
‘Majolica’ for earthenware decorated with coloured lead glazes direct onto the biscuit.
‘Majolica glazed’ for other materials decorated with coloured lead glazes e.g. majolica glazed parian ware.
French faience and Dutch and English delftware were developments of Italian tin-glazed maiolica.
Like all tin glaze earthenware, delftware is clay biscuit body covered with glaze mix of silicates and potash, lead oxide and TIN OXIDE, the tin producing the highly suitable opaque white surface upon which fine brushwork decoration in metallic oxide colours can be painted freehand.