Antique Victorian Staffordshire Pottery Spaniels and Animals

Prince Albert and the teenage (age 18) Queen Victoria.

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.

Antique Victorian Staffordshire Pottery Spaniels. Figures associated with Queen Victoria. The Royal Arms and a powerful reminder of her role as Empress of India.
Figures associated with Queen Victoria. On the left: The Royal Arms. On the Right: A reminder of Victoria’s role as Empress of India, the Lion representing Great Britain, the Tiger the Raj, subcontinent of India.

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,

Prince Albert and the teenage (age 18) Queen Victoria. Antique Victorian Staffordshire Pottery Spaniels
Prince Albert and the teenage (18 years) Queen Victoria.

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.

Royal Children Antique Victorian Staffordshire Pottery Royalty. Antique Victorian Staffordshire Pottery Spaniels
Queen Victoria’s first two children, kilted, with dogs.

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.

Young girl and young boy pair setting off to the Crimean War. Antique Victorian Staffordshire Pottery Spaniels
Young girl and young boy setting off to the Crimean War.

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.

Florence Nightingale served to saved lives in the Crimea. Antique Victorian Staffordshire Pottery Spaniels
Florence Nightingale served to saved lives in the Crimea.

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.

Antique Victorian Staffordshire Pottery Spaniels Lady Hester Stanhope, innovative and resourceful explorer and archaeologist
Lady Hester Stanhope, innovative and resourceful explorer and archaeologist

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 – Minton, Wedgwood, George Jones and Holdcroft

George Jones Majolica Game Pie Dish

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.

Perhaps the best known majolica-makers' marks of them all. Oyster plate pattern number 1105, 'MINTON' and date cypher for 1873.
Perhaps the best known majolica-makers’ marks of them all. Oyster plate pattern number 1105, ‘MINTON’ and date cypher for 1873.
Makers marks 'MINTON' and date cypher for
Maker ‘MINTON’ and date cypher for 1867.
Majolica-makers marks - from a rare Minton tin-glaze majolica plate. Note the impressed marks almost obscured by glaze. Note also MINTON in manganese (brown) script.
Majolica-makers marks – this is from a rare Minton Majolica tin-glaze plate in imitation of Renaissance Italian tin-glaze maiolica. Note the impressed marks almost obscured by glaze. Note also MINTON in manganese brown fine painted script on opaque white tin glaze.






Minton was perhaps the most consistent. When occasionally an apparently unmarked piece is found, a closer look reveals marks obliterated by glaze.

Majolica-makers marks. MINTON date cyphers.
Majolica-makers marks. MINTON date cyphers.
Click here for more images button on the Madelena website
On the Madelena website click this button to view detail pictures including the makers’ marks.

Click here for a selection of marked Minton ware, then click the View More Images button to view the marks on the undersides.


WEDGWOOD majolica mark and three letter date code.
Majolica-makers’ marks. Impressed WEDGWOOD. Three letter date code. Last letter indicates 1876.

Wedgwood were also reasonably consistent. Most pieces were marked with an impressed makers mark. Many had the three letter date code in addition.

Botanical plate impressed maker mark 'WEDGWOOD' and date code for 1879
Botanical plate, impressed makers mark ‘WEDGWOOD’ and date code for 1879






Majolica-makers marks - WEDGWOOD date codes.
Majolica-makers marks – WEDGWOOD date codes.

Click here for a selection of marked Wedgwood ware, then click the View More Images button to view the marks on the reverse of the platter.

Other makers marked some pieces, but by no means all, e.g. George Jones, Holdcroft, and Brown Westhead Moore.

George Jones

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.

Click here for a selection of marked George Jones pieces. Then click the View More Images button.

Here is a G Jones jug which has no maker’s marks, being part of, probably, a tea service, pattern number 3368.

Majolica-makers' marks - GJ blossom jug. This has no marks whatsoever to the underside.
Majolica-makers’ marks – GJ blossom jug. This has no marks whatsoever to the underside.

=&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]   

majolica marks
Rare George Jones dwarf elephant ear plates, Private Collection

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…

George Jones majolica Strawberry Server
George Jones majolica Strawberry Server. Full set includes three spoons, pot for sugar and pot for cream.
 Majolica-makers' marks - G. Jones blue-tit strawberry server. British Pattern Registry Office 'lozenge' and Pattern Number in reserve.
Majolica-makers’ marks – G. Jones blue-tit strawberry server. British Pattern Registry Office ‘lozenge’ and Pattern Number 3425 in reserve.

Joseph Holdcroft

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.

Underside of Holdcroft majolica dish. No makers majolica marks.
Underside of Holdcroft fish and bulrush platter. No makers marks. Characteristic glaze.


Majolica maker's mark J Holdcroft.
Majolica maker’s mark J Holdcroft.

More on the fish and bulrush Joseph Holdcroft platter

More Holdcroft…

All majolica on our website – Shop, Sell, Discover


Wikipedia on Majolica – a good starting point to explore the several meanings of the word ‘majolica’.

Majolica International Society – more information on Victorian Majolica, upcoming events, and research library.

To be continued… There is more to be said about makers’ and other marks found on lead-glazed Victorian majolica.



  Read More


Majolica – One word for two different products. How might that happen?

1.  Earthenware decorated with coloured lead glazes 2. Tin-glazed earthenware painted with enamels

Designs for the two distinct types of Minton majolica product both called ‘majolica’ sit side by side in the Majolica Box, The Minton Archive.

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”]

Majolica product/ Maiolica Leon Arnoux publicly states "Lead is very little used now..."
Leon Arnoux publicly states “Lead is very little used now…”, Lectures on the Results of the Great Exhibition of 1851 delivered before the Society of Arts, Manufacturers, and Commerce, 1852.

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.

Majolica product / Maiolica Joan Jones, 1993
Joan Jones, 1993, ‘Minton the first 200 years of Design and Production’. This majolica product contains no tin.
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”]

  1. 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’.
  2. 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’.
  3. 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’.
  4. 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.


Majolica product/ Maiolica Minton's 'Palissy ware'.  Impressed 'MINTON'. Coloured lead glazes. Naturalistic hen and useful pot/posy vase with foliage. Known today as coloured lead glaze majolica.
Minton’s ‘Palissy ware’ later called ‘majolica’.  Impressed ‘MINTON’. Coloured lead glazes. Naturalistic hen and useful pot/posy vase with foliage. Commonly known as lead-glazed majolica.
Majolica/ Maiolica Minton's 'Majolica'. Impressed 'MINTON'.  Opaque white tin-glaze, brush-painted in Italian Renaissance style. Known today as tin-glaze majolica.
Minton’s ‘Majolica’. Impressed ‘MINTON’.  Opaque white tin-glaze, fine-painted in Italian Renaissance style. Commonly known as tin-glazed majolica. Image thanks to Karmason Library, Majolica International Society.

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

majolica product / maiolica An earlier Catalogue places Minton's Della Robbia Ware, Italian Majolica and Palissy Ware in sections of their own. 1850, London Journal of Arts.
An early exhibition Catalogue of medieval art categorises Della Robbia Ware, Italian Majolica and Palissy Ware in distinct sections. Minton copied all these names for his imitation wares. 1850, Journal of Design and Manufactures, Vol. III pp. 67-73

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).

majolica/ maiolica 1858, Digby Wyatt, M., Journal of the Society of Arts, May 26, p.442. No confusion here about the separation of Majolica and Palissy.
1858, Digby Wyatt, M., Journal of the Society of Arts, May 26, p.442. No confusion here about the separation of majolica product ‘Majolica’ and ‘Palissy ware’.

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’.]

Continued later…

majolica/ maiolica Minton Archives, website clip. Classification of Minton Art Materials as they were in 1871
Minton Archives, website clip. Classification of Minton Art Materials as they were in 1871

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


Maiolica Majolica Citations Part One – Flower Vases

Minton majolica jardinière and stand circa 1861, coloured lead glazes applied directly to the biscuit, shape first introduced at the 1851 Exhibition.

Investigate What

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.

Minton tin-glaze majolica, brush painted decoration on opaque white glaze, impressed factory marks, circa 1860
Minton tin-glaze majolica, brush painted decoration on opaque white glaze, impressed factory marks, circa 1860

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


R Lalique Perfume Bottles

Lalique perfume

Lalique Perfume Bottles on Sunday 13th November – National Glass Collectors Fair

You will enjoy this if you are interested in Lalique perfume bottles, René Lalique glass, motorbikes, or just a random Sunday outing next weekend.

We would love to see you there. B92 0ED if you are using Sat Nav. The fair adjoins the Motorcycle Museum, Bickenhill, Solihull. Find us at Stand 34 in Hall 2, two tables down from our former position.

In the dark all cats are grey

We are informed that this is a French saying that has something to do with… well, with what happens when the lights are out.

Rene Lalique
René Lalique

René was unbelievably productive, also an inventive and imaginative genius.

It should therefore come as no surprise to discover that the names he chose for his designs frequently contained sub-text.



Rene Lalique 'Georgette' opalescent chocolate box, diameter 21cm, 8.27ins. Engraved 'R. LALIQUE France'. Book ref: Marcilhac 45.
Rene Lalique ‘Georgette’ opalescent chocolate box, diameter 21cm, 8.27ins. Engraved ‘R. LALIQUE France’. Book ref: Marcilhac 45.

Can you imagine receiving a gift of chocolates in a box like this? Now you really know how important you are to the gift giver.

René  called this design ‘Georgette’, the name of his youngest daughter. A personal touch to an already wonderful object.

Dans La Nuit

Lalique perfume
Lalique perfume bottle and stopper, ‘Dans La Nuit’, clear with blue staining, 10.50cm, 4.13ins tall. Introduced 1924.

A star spangled Lalique perfume bottle ‘Dans La Nuit’.

When the bottle is rotated bright points of light shine out of a dark blue night sky. What elegance. What technical brilliance.

What to call it? René chooses a phrase with meaningful sub-text.

“Dans La Nuit”

“In the dark all cats are grey”

View Rene Lalique perfume bottles on Sunday 13th

We have a good selection of Lalique on the website, detailed pictures and fully described. Most of these we will be exhibiting on Sunday. Here are the Lalique perfume bottles

Browse our website, our feedback and our policies. We look forward to meeting you online or at the fair. Read More


Lead Glaze Perfection – lead-glazed Victorian Majolica

Minton Ewer Detail

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

  1. 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)
  2. Vibrant and translucent in appearance  due to their high refractive index
  3. 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.
Lead-glaze earthenware glaze miss showing buff biscuit 'block-painted' with colored lead glazes
Lead-glaze earthenware glaze miss showing buff biscuit ‘block-painted’ with colored lead glazes

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.

Lead glaze earthenware, Chinese Sancai horse, colored
Circa 700AD lead glaze earthenware. Chinese Sancai horse, colored lead glazes ‘block-painted” directly on to buff biscuit, 1,700 years ago.

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.

Earthenware body covered with white slip, incised decoration and painted with coloured lead glaze decoration
Earthenware body covered with white slip, incised decoration and painted with coloured lead glaze decoration. Courtesy of V and A who date this circa 1490

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 figure' of a performing lion.
Circa 1780. Lead glaze underneath. ‘Enamel painted figure’ of a performing lion.

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.




Circa 1830 Brameld platter. Lead glaze colored green with copper oxide.
Circa 1830 Brameld platter. Lead glaze colored green with copper oxide. No other decoration.

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)

Minton Majolica jardinière circa 1873. Colored lead glazes.
Minton Majolica jardinière circa 1873. Note the use of not only colored, but also plain lead glazes.

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 ‘Victorian Majolica‘. First made by Minton, thereafter copied throughout Europe and USA.

French Majolica

German Majolica

Minton Majolica

George Jones Majolica

Wedgwood Majolica

Minton’s showing of his ‘Palissy ware‘ 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!

Circa 1855 Minton Majolica ('Palissy ware') Ewer decorated entirely with lead glazes
Circa 1862 Minton Majolica (‘Palissy ware’) Hercules Ewer decorated entirely with lead glazes. Artist Pierre-Emile Jeannest.

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.

Minton Ewer Detail

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.

Minton tin-glaze 'majolica' plate, 1861, brush-painted decoration on opaque white tin-glaze enamel.
Rare Minton tin-glazed ‘majolica’ plate, circa 1860

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.

Minton Majolica lead-glazed platter with molded Juno, Neptune, Mercury and Selene. Full set of Minton marks and pattern number '367'.
Minton Majolica lead-glazed platter circa 1860. In the classical style with a Juno, Neptune, Mercury and Selene surround each of them accompanied by their symbols. Pattern number ‘367’

Detail pics of this Neptune platter 

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.GlazesTinItalianDamageAndNameMajolica

[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.

Dutch Delft ware circa 1700
Dutch Delft ware circa 1700. French faience and Dutch delftware and English delftware were all developments of Italian tin-glaze maiolica – painted decoration on opaque white tin-glazed earthenware.

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.

Online Sources

Encyclopaedia Britannica on pottery, glazes and enamels

Wikipedia on tin-glaze

C Fortnum Drury, 1875 on Italian tin-glaze maiolica

Leon Arnoux, 1877 on Pottery and Palissy

Paul Atterbury entries on MAIOLICA and MAJOLICA are comprehensive


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