Majolica Society Visit Homes and Collections
The Majolica International Society (MIS)
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…
Home visits might be top of your list
A journey to a residence in Virginia is scheduled.
On boarding the bus, refreshment and snacks are provided because traffic jams are anticipated. How very thoughtful. Great start!
We are greeted by our host and her family. Their collection is a wonderful sequence of lessons in how to group multiple majolica pieces in harmony with each other. We see how complementary cabinets, tables, wall coverings and other types of décor all fit together.
The hospitality is so welcoming. We leave sated with majolica and designer ideas. Replete with refreshment and blueberry pie, we wish only that we had the capacity to try the many other treats and delicacies on offer.
There was of course more. Much, much more…
Next day, another home, another collection, more majolica, some maiolica
With the luxury of space, this collector’s taste for larger pieces is exercised to maximum advantage. Every space has its own feel. A lady’s touch is everywhere.
The main room layout is dominated by a magnificent window with a wonderful view and a huge fireplace. Rare, museum quality, iconic majolica sets the tone for the entire collection. In the centre the rare Minton Peacock. Only eleven examples are known. Another rarity, the Wedgwood Swan Vase on the right. Adorned in lion skins, the rarest of them all, a handsome, fearsome, six feet tall Minton Blackamoor.
On each side of the fireplace a rare Minton cat-handled vase.
In the dining-room we are drawn to the astonishing Prometheus Vase
A perfect marriage of mythology, design and the new coloured lead glazes invented by Leon Arnoux. Ceramic chemist and Art Director of Minton and Co. he was in later life later known “the man who made Mintons”.
We choose a view showing nine different coloured lead glazes, including plain lead glaze used over the buff ‘biscuit’ body for flesh tones.
Can you believe all nine coloured lead glazes are applied to the ‘biscuit’ body simultaneously, then fired, just once, with so little colour run?
The ‘majolica’ process involves no faffing around with multiple stages and time consuming brush painted scenes. This is in contrast to the tin-glaze ‘maiolica’ process used to produce the Minton Urbino vase below, where the painting takes much longer.
In a delightful airy area with comfortable seating a large majolica snake follows the progress of passers-by from its position under one of the armchairs. Humour, taste and intelligence, characteristic virtues of High Victorian style, are all around us.
A stunning group of whimsical tea-pots
… and related majolica occupy a space in another room. England’s upper classes doubtless would have thought these of low taste. Pity them. The new lead glaze majolica is being produced in styles so ‘new generation’, so up to date and so adaptable to the fashion of the moment, that upcoming Victorians revelled and delighted in the originality, intelligence and humour. Art pottery to make you think. Art pottery to make you smile.
This has been a mere glimpse of the collection. There is simply too much to absorb in the time available.
Besides which, we are on a mission
The MIS Library (Karmason Library) is a wonderful resource for members of the Majolica International Society. We had spotted two pieces of particular interest to our majolica maiolica enquiries. Karmason Library does not mention tin glaze for either item. We think both pieces may be tin-glazed with brush painted decoration hence our need to take a closer look.
First, the Ginori
Circa 1875 maiolica revival wine cistern, a beautiful example of Ginori’s determination to revive the popularity of tin-glaze Renaissance Italian maiolica.
Interesting, and a little sad, that Ginori feels it necessary to decorate the exterior in imitation of fashionable 1870’s coloured lead glazes majolica. Is it imitation? Or are these genuine colored glazes on the outside, with a tin glaze maiolica interior?
Most noteworthy are the exterior ‘majolica’ colours which we judge to be of unequal depth and vibrancy to the coloured lead glazes of real majolica. Furthermore we see leaves painted with black veins. Viscous lead glazes invariably ‘pool’ on sculpted surfaces. We see no ‘pooling’ only a painted likeness of it. Where the ochre and blue colours touch they look flatter, different from the margins between blue lead glaze and ochre lead glaze with which we are so familiar. In conclusion we judge the Ginori cistern to be tin-glazed all over with painted decoration inside and out.
Second, the wonderful tin-glazed, brush -painted Urbino Vase
This is the earthenware that Minton did call ‘majolica’. Very rare. Made with English clays.
Minton’s lead-glazed ‘Palissy’ ware which soon also became known as ‘majolica’ was the ware that became the hottest thing in pottery of the Victorian era and today can be found everywhere.
The MIS Library (Karmason Library or KL) wants to hear about all examples of hand painted ‘Urbino’ vases by Minton.
This vase is awesome. Small wonder Minton were proud of this product. What a shame it was not more successful commercially.
If you ever wondered what you would value most after joining the Society, the KL resource might easily be a contender to top even home visits, knowledgeable speakers, intelligent company, and ‘Majolica Heaven’. Why not join now for a trial year?
The Karmason Library entry for the tin-glaze Urbino vase is below. The library is online with an Advanced Search capability.
Thanks to the Majolica Society
… for the Karmason Library and for two memorable visits. Thank you, our hosts, for your amazing hospitality and for sharing your homes and collections.