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. 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).
2. majolica n. English tin-glazed earthenware made from 1850 in imitation of Italian Renaissance maiolica having an opaque whitish glaze with brush painted decoration. Minton named it ‘majolica’. Shown at the 1851 Exhibition. Very rare.
3. majolica n. Earthenware decorated with colored lead glazes applied directly to an unglazed body, then fired. Typically hard-wearing, relief molded, in classical or naturalistic styles. Named ‘Palissy’ ware by Minton, soon became known as ‘majolica’. Introduced in 1851; widely copied and mass produced. Also the technique of painting coloured lead glazes onto unglazed surfaces.
4. Victorian Majolica n. Majolica manufactured in England between 1850 and 1900 of Sense 2. tin-glazed pottery, or Sense 3. coloured-lead-glazes pottery, often with an element of High Victorian whimsy.
1851, Art Journal Illustrated Catalogue, citation supporting Sense 2.
The text describes Minton flower-vases in imitation of Renaissance Italian tin-glaze maiolica. The accompanying illustration is however of a flower pot (jardinière and stand) to the best of our knowledge decorated only by coloured lead glazes applied directly to the ‘biscuit’.
Using the text alone this citation makes clear the product is by Minton in imitation of Renaissance Italian tin-glaze maiolica – the “old Majolica”. The citation can therefore be used with no risk of ambiguity to support Sense 2. majolica n. English tin-glazed earthenware made from 1848 in imitation of Italian Renaissance maiolica having an opaque whitish glaze with brush painted decoration, named ‘majolica’ by Minton and launched at the 1851 Exhibition.
The citation above highlights a recurrent problem for researchers: authors often get it wrong.
The new, vibrant, coloured lead glazes of Arnoux at Minton are hard-wearing, suitable for multi-purpose use in home and garden e.g. flower pots.
Tin-glazed products are, by contrast, generally prone to flaking, more suitable for interior décor and conservatories than for outdoor use.
As far as we know, the first published illustration of a Minton majolica flower vase/pot is the above woodcut in the Art Journal Illustrated Catalogue of 1851.
Read a little further and you will see the text of the catalogue continues with a very interesting phrase…
“Messrs Minton & Co…. exhibit some excellent Flower Vases, coloured after the style of the old Majolica. The quiet tone of colour he has adopted for their fanciful surfaces evinces the very best of taste.”
Hold on… the text does not seem to match the illustration!
Does the author truly know his subject? Or was this flower pot once produced in tin-glaze? Unlikely, but let us know if you know of one.
To the best of our knowledge, this pot was only ever decorated by coloured lead glazes applied directly to the ‘biscuit’ as illustrated here.
Good to see an original colour pattern on page 7 of November 2016 Majolica Matters!
Not exactly “quiet tone of colour”…
“Vase” sounds like interior décor. “Old Majolica” in 1851 definitely refers to Renaissance Italian tin-glaze maiolica. “Quiet tone of colour” seems more likely to describe opaque white with painted decoration than vibrant colored lead-glazes. It would seem to us the text describes Minton’s tin-glazed flower vases made in imitation of Italian Renaissance maiolica with brush painted decoration like the one (below) that we photographed recently in the magnificent Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent.
What did Minton exhibit in 1851?
We return to the Art Journal Illustrated Catalogue. We search every reference to ‘Minton’ hoping to find a picture of a Minton tin-glazed flower-vase or a picture of anything else by Minton lead-glazed.
At last! We thrill to spot the iconic Minton Victoria Wine Cooler which won the only British medal for Arnoux and Minton – page 5, Majolica Matters, November 2016!
Dang it. The example in the Catalogue is reported as being the centrepiece of the dessert service ‘in Parian ware’ purchased by Queen Victoria (pp.114,115,116). Did the author of the catalogue get this wrong? [Ed. note: No worries. The Victoria Wine Cooler in the Exhibition gifted to the Emperor of Austria was indeed Parian ware. See this link V and A Museum. Did the colored lead glazes cooler come slightly later? Or was there a coloured version also in the Exhibition?]
“The third cut is from a WINE-COOLER, which forms the centre-piece of the dessert-service, and is, on the whole, the most meritorious object of the collection; our limited space does not permit us to describe it;”
The dessert service is that purchased by Queen Victoria, reported as being made of Parian.
We are interested in evidence of any Minton tin-glazed or lead-glazed ware exhibited in 1851. Is the above the Minton stand?
1851, London Journal of Arts, citation supporting Sense 2.
1851 London Jrnl. Arts 39 61 The specimens of the revived majolica in the Exhibition are by Minton; but the style of art in which they are executed does not deserve commendation.
The London Journal of Arts also reports on the 1851 Exhibition but in text alone, no pictures.
The London Journal of Arts citation of 1851 makes clear the product is by Minton in imitation of Renaissance Italian tin-glaze maiolica, the “revived Majolica”.
The citation can therefore be used with no risk of ambiguity to support Sense 2. majolica n. English tin-glazed earthenware made from 1850 in imitation of Italian Renaissance maiolica having an opaque whitish glaze with brush painted decoration, named ‘majolica’ by Minton, introduced 1851.
“The style… does not deserve commendation” is entirely subjective, though it might tally with “Quiet tone of colour” (above).
On p.62 only Minton’s tin-glazed flower vases and tiles are mentioned. Was there no ‘Palissy’ ware to report? Was the flower pot and under-tray that was at the exhibition, and illustrated, actually a tin-glaze example?
Also on p.62 is a further reference to the “comparatively tender character” of tin-glazed ware.
1867, Leon Arnoux, Reports on the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1867, citation supporting Sense 3.
1867, Leon Arnoux, on Pottery, p.391, Reports on the Paris Universal Exhibition 1867
“But it is by their garden-pots, flower vases, and garden seats… that Minton have made their majolica so well known”
“… so well known” can only mean “mass produced”, Sense 3. majolica n. Earthenware decorated with colored lead glazes applied directly to an unglazed body, then fired. Typically hard-wearing, relief molded, in classical or naturalistic styles. Called ‘Palissy’ ware by Minton, soon became known as ‘majolica’ [absurdly, says Haggar]. Introduced in 1851; widely copied and mass-produced; the hottest pottery of the Victorian era.
By 1867 when Arnoux writes this report he is content to use the word MAJOLICA for both the tin-glaze and the lead-glaze product. The word LEAD is entirely absent from this report. Lead poisoning of workers in the Potteries was a huge issue. We suspect Arnoux was being political. [Text in brackets is our own.] He says
“[Minton] combine upon their majolica different sorts of transparent [lead glaze earthenware that Minton named ‘Palissy ware’] and opaque [tin glaze earthenware that Minton named ‘majolica’] enamels… sometimes [decorated] in the Italian method [raw tin glaze, dried, painted, then fired to produce characteristic opaque white glaze with painted decoration]; sometimes upon the opaque-fired enamel…”
1869, Jacob Falke, The Workshop, citation supporting Sense 1.
Jacob Falke, edited by Prof W Baumer et al, The Workshop, 1869 Vol II, No. 10, p.148
Sense 1. majolica n. An alternative spelling of maiolica n.
maiolica n. Any tin-glazed earthenware with opaque whitish glaze and brush painted decoration. Prone to flaking.
The possibility of ambiguity is removed by the reference to “ornament only”. This eliminates the possibility of confusion with Sense 3. – the hard-wearing majolica of coloured lead glazes applied direct to the biscuit.
“…however highly majolica may be esteemed, it will always remain an article of luxury and ornament only… Any other employment of it, as for drinking cups, for example, or Dinner services can never be anything but a passing fashion… In ornaments for the drawing-room… or for flower vases… it will find its appropriate use,…” p.148
1968, Mankowitz & Haggar, Encyclopaedia of English Pottery, citations supporting Sense 1. and Sense 3.
Mankowitz and Haggar, respected life long ceramicists define MAIOLICA as tin-glaze earthenware with painted decoration as in Sense 1. maiolica n. Any tin-glazed earthenware with opaque whitish glaze and brush painted decoration; reached Italy mid 15th century.
“… any kind of earthenware with painted decoration on tin glaze.”
and MAJOLICA as Sense 3. majolica n. Earthenware decorated with colored lead glazes applied directly to an unglazed body…
“MAJOLICA – the name absurdly given by Victorian potters to earthenware decorated with coloured glazes introduced at Mintons about 1850, for… flower-pots…”
Conclusion in sight
We promise to conclude our investigations eventually. Meanwhile the discovery of unambiguous citations supporting the four senses of the word majolica n. goes on.