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

Two distinct types of pottery both called ‘majolica’.

How did that happen? Why not simply Earthenware decorated with coloured lead glazes = Majolica; Tin-glazed earthenware painted with enamels = Maiolica?

Other blogs refer. Today we look at how it might have happened.


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…”Click here to Read More

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. Click here to Read More


Another source of confusion

That lecture, by Leon Arnoux in 1852, is interesting for another very important reason…

Majolica/ Maiolica

Everyone today knows that the Minton factory named their earthenware 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.

The Four Senses

Add two more meanings of the word to arrive at today’s four meanings, four senses of the word ‘majolica’. Click here to Read More

Majolica/ 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 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/ 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 Catalogue places Minton’s Della Robbia Ware, Italian Majolica and Palissy Ware in distinct sections. 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 and Palissy.

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.


But when we come to the Catalogue of the 1851 Great Exhibition, confusion arises

Majolica naming confusion deliberate?

Click here to Read More
1867 Exhibition Report by Leon Arnoux

Nine years later, in his 1867 Exhibition Report, Arnoux details materials and process for Palissy faience [ware] without mentioning lead…

[Ed. Text in brackets below is our own]

The Palissy faience is composed of a clay slightly coloured [buff], covered with different [lead] glazes, which have been previously coloured by means of metallic oxides [iron for yellow, manganese for purple, cobalt for blue, copper for green, etc.]; these glazes of different colours being applied, some by the side of others [combined upon the same piece], or blended one into another [mottled]…

and he provides some information on earthenware types.

Reports on the Paris Universal Exhibition, 1867 Report on Pottery by Leon Arnoux Esq. A clear description of coloured lead-glaze earthenware and tin-glazed earthenware without mentioning LEAD or TIN
Reports on the Paris Universal Exhibition, 1867 Report on Pottery by Leon Arnoux Esq. A good description of coloured lead glazes earthenware and of tin-glazed earthenware. No mention of lead or tin for clarification.
A clear description of coloured lead-glaze earthenware and tin-glazed earthenware without mentioning LEAD or TIN
A summary of what Arnoux wrote in his description of coloured-lead-glazed earthenware and tin-glazed earthenware above. (Ed. Text in brackets is our own). Mentioning lead and tin where appropriate dispels confusion.

Finally, at the end of the report Arnoux’s summary employs the word ‘majolica’ to describe both Minton’s tin-glazed majolica and Minton’s coloured lead glazes Palissy ware. Still no mention of lead or tin for clarification, so very confusing. Deliberately confusing? Hard to know.

majolica/maiolica Leon Arnoux, 1867, Report on the 1867 Exhibition seems anxious to skip details of materials and methods, and happy use 'majolica' for both tin-glazed and coloured lead glazes
Reports on the Paris Universal Exhibition, 1867. Report on Pottery by Leon Arnoux Esq. Summarising, Arnoux uses the word ‘majolica’ to include both types of pottery: tin-glazed and coloured lead glazes. No mention of lead or tin.

Majolica – in conclusion

In conclusion we offer two explanations to the title question “How did one word get used for two quite different products?”

  1. To describe Italian tin-glazed earthenware the British had for a long time been using the word ‘majolica’ instead of the centuries old ‘maiolica’. Minton simply used the British spelling ‘majolica’ for his tin-glazed product in imitation of Italian tin-glazed maiolica.
  2. The lead-abolition campaign. Without it, we suggest, Minton, Arnoux, industry, and media would have had no difficulty describing Minton’s new products separately, as they did in the factory. They might have used words along these lines:

“Majolica is the name used by Minton for the tin-glazed earthenware painted with metal oxide enamels in imitation of Italian tin-glazed maiolica.”

“Palissy ware is the name used by Minton for earthenware decorated with the new range of coloured lead glazes. This product soon became known also as majolica.”

 

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Lead Glaze Perfection – lead-glazed Victorian Majolica

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You will love this…

First, technical information on lead glaze

Second, a brief history of how lead glazes developed

Third, 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?

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

 

 

“…it was about the year 1300 that the method of covering the clay with a ” slip ” or ” engobe ” of white earth, or the coarser earth of Verona, was first adopted. Slightly baked, it was glazed with ” marzacotto ” (oxide of lead and glass), applied wet and again fired ; and this glaze was variously coloured yellow, green, black, and blue, by iron, copper, manganese, and cobalt. “

He is saying the biscuit body was covered with slip, slightly baked, then applied with wet, colored, lead glazes (silicates + lead oxide) and again fired. Colors were the oxides of iron for yellow, of copper for green, of manganese for black and of cobalt for blue.

Circa 1550 Palissy

Circa 1550 we meet Bernard Palissy, the father of French ceramics.

Statue of Berard Palissy on the colonnade of the Musee Louvre in Paris
Statue of Bernard Palissy on a colonnade of the Musee Louvre in Paris

Here he is. Holding one of his vases. Many of the pieces formerly believed to be his own work are now attributed to followers.

We love him best for his ‘Rustic wares’ (Rustic Figulines). Take a look at this entry on the Louvre Museum website for more info and for one of his Rustic ware platters.

The ‘Rustic’ ware is ultra-naturalistic, entirely unique at this time. In addition he succeeded, after great hardship to himself and his family, in adding to the available range of lead glaze formulae. Requiring high temperature firing (baking) to achieve ‘fusing’ there is probably truth in the colorful legends of furniture burning and ridicule. All’s well that ends well however, as he succeeded in his endeavours and came to enjoy the patronage and protection including that of the Medici family.

A little before Palissy’s time, the secret of adding tin to lead glaze to produce opaque white tin glaze reached the Western world via Moorish Spain (Moorish – most of Spain was Muslim for about 700 years until around 1492).

Circa 1760 onwards – Development of Lead Glazes in England

GlazesLeadCreamwarePlaque1760
Plaque circa 1760, green, brown, and plain (‘pearl’) glazes applied directly to a creamware body.

Circa 1760  English potters develop existing lead glazes. Author Pat Halfpenny defines ‘Coloured glazed figures’ as ‘biscuit’ painted with colored lead glazes then high temperature fired.

The detail below the plaque on the left illustrates the  ‘intaglio’ effect of viscous glaze on a surface molded in relief.

 

 

 

Circa 1770 Whieldon 'cauliflower' teapot. Colored lead glazes applied direct to the 'biscuit'
Circa 1765 Whieldon ‘cauliflower’ teapot. Colored lead glazes applied direct to the ‘biscuit’

Circa 1765  Greatbach, Wedgwood and Whieldon are successful with ‘Cauliflower ware’ – body (‘biscuit’) painted with yellow and green colored lead glazes then high temperature fired.

 

 

Circa 1770 figure made in Yorkshire. Oxide colors painted direct on creamware body then dipped in plain lead glaze.
Circa 1770 figure made in Yorkshire. Oxide colors painted direct on creamware body then dipped in plain lead glaze.

Circa 1770  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. The lead glaze goes underneath. 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 creates a range of lead-glazes for the pottery Minton classifies as  ‘Palissy ware‘. The public call it ‘majolica‘. Today it is properly 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 launch of ‘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

Writers and dictionaries have been less than clear on the composition and qualities of lead glaze and tin glaze pottery. In a quest for clarity with regard to materials and processes we have been researching original sources. We’ll wager you can spot the difference between most lead-glaze earthenware and tin-glaze earthenware…

But what is the difference and why does it matter?

Keep in mind the technology of clay and glazes has always involved much trial and error, as much an art as science. Minute deviations from ‘standard’ can make a world of difference to the results.

Difference in Materials

Circa 1460 knowledge of the tin-glaze method reached Italy. With a suitable white surface on which to paint, the invention and beauty of Italian Renaissance tin-glazed maiolica would soon become legend. Minton so admired these creations 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, giving the appearance of a whitish ‘color’. Launched in 1851 at the Great Exhibition Minton gave his tin glaze imitation Italian maiolica (above) the name of ‘majolica’. Awkward.

Cost of Production

Tin-glazed earthenware is biscuit body, typically flat surface, dipped or coated with tin glaze and allowed to dry, unfired. Finely painted freehand decoration 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, 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’ green, brown, blue and plain colors typical of Minton’s lead glazes.

Depth and strength of color contributed greatly to the success of majolica. Tin-glaze alternatives were losing their appeal with the growing merchant classes of Victorian England.

Note also the absence of the freehand painting characteristic of tin-glaze earthenware.

 

Durability

Tin glaze was less durable than lead glaze so less suitable for heavy domestic or outdoor use.GlazesTinItalianDamageAndNameMajolica
This 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 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. A direction to be encouraged in our opinion – one word for tin another word for lead.

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 Brittanica 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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Majolica? Maiolica? Victorian Majolica Maiolica – Quiz Questions, Answers, Evidence

Which is it? What is it? Majolica? Maiolica? Victorian Majolica?

MAIOLICA MAJOLICA

“These two words have been used interchangeably and still are.”

Online Search Engines

Present day dictionary compilers and online search engines’ primary definitions treat ‘maiolica’ and ‘majolica’ as interchangeable. Fans of tin glazed maiolica and fans of lead glazed majolica  both feel this is overdue for correction. We can see they are different. We know they are different. Do they not deserve one clear sense each?

'Clever' website searches for MAIOLICA books and finds all our books on Victorian Majolica
‘Clever’ website searches for MAIOLICA books and finds all our books on Victorian Majolica!

Above, a ‘clever’ website looks for Amazon books on a particular subject. The subject is ‘maiolica’. Unfortunately the built-in online dictionary defines maiolica as majolica so Victorian majolica is what it references!

Auctioneers

1859 MAJOLICA auction turns out to be Italian tin-glaze MAIOLICA

Christies’ 1859 auction of MAJOLICA WARE (picture to the left) turns out to be entirely of tin-glaze Italian maiolica.

At this time both in England and in the US used the word ‘majolica’ was the word normally used for tin-glaze Italian maiolica.

 

Dictionary Compilers

OED on line edition 2012, Majolica n. definition 3.
OED on line edition 2012, Majolica n. definition 3.

 

Even the Oxford English Dictionary definition is incomplete.

3. Majolica n.  A type of 19th-century earthenware with coloured decoration on an opaque white tin (or sometimes lead) glaze an opaque white tin or sometimes lead glaze, of vaguely Renaissance inspiration… introduced by Minton in 1851…

Omit “or sometimes lead” and “typically used for large decorative items, tableware, tiles and figures” to arrive at a definition of Minton’s rare tin-glaze ‘English majolica’ product.

But where is the definition of what Minton called ‘Palissy’ ware

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

later becoming known also as ‘majolica’, the sensational product made with colored lead-glazes applied direct to the biscuit also introduced by Minton in 1851?

We will get into that another day, pressing for an updated definition that recognises Minton’s lead glaze ‘Palissy’ ware later known also as ‘majolica’.

The world needs dictionary defined senses of the word ‘majolica, n.’ to include

  • all the existing senses, with reference to processes and materials of manufacture as well as appearance
  • a new sense, meaning earthenware typically modeled in relief, colored with translucent, vibrant lead glazes applied directly to the ‘biscuit’, simultaneously, introduced by Minton and Co. in 1851 as ‘Palissy’ ware soon after known also as ‘majolica’
  • a new sense, ‘Victorian Majolica’ meaning both lead glaze majolica, mass-produced, widely available (introduced by Minton as ‘Palissy’ ware) and tin glaze majolica, very rare,(introduced by Minton as ‘majolica’)
  • alludes to the use of the word ‘majolica’ for the lead glaze product by all 20th century authors and most museums
  • alludes to words for lead glaze majolica in other languages

Maiolica is earthenware typically with painted decoration on a whitish tin-glaze enamel. The ‘biscuit’ is coated with tin-glaze and allowed to dry, unfired. Brush-painted decoration is applied to the dry unfired tin-glaze, then fired.

The majolica/maiolica names muddle existed well before 1848. But it got worse in the years that followed as we now explain.

QUESTIONS, ANSWERS and EVIDENCE

We compiled a fun quiz to illuminate facts relevant to the definition of Victorian majolica.
The Majolica International Society published the quiz in the January 2016 issue of ‘Majolica Matters’, the quarterly newsletter circulated to members by regular mail. In this blog we detail evidence to support the answers. The difference between pottery with coloured lead glazes and tin-glazed pottery emerges as key to understanding.

There were no trick questions, but you had to read carefully.

Minton Victorian Majolica Pottery Jardiniere
Victorian Majolica Pottery, Minton Jardiniere, 1870

Known today as Victorian Majolica, this exciting new type of lead-glazed earthenware received its first major public airing at the 1851 Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations.

1. “Minton exhibited two new products at the 1851 Great Exhibition and the 1855 Paris Exhibition. They were named ‘Palissy ware’ and ‘Majolica’”

A. True  B. False  B. TRUE

a) The Illustrated London News, Nov. 10, 1855, p.561:

“Messrs. Minton and Co. are the most conspicuous contributors of pottery in the Paris Exhibition… The collection of Palissy and Majolica ware… is that which appears to have created the greatest sensation among Parisian connoisseurs…”

b) Leon Arnoux, 1877:

[Comments in brackets are ours]
“I have given the name of Majolica [he is referring to his tin-glaze ware] to that class of ornament, whose surface is covered with opaque enamels of a great variety of colours. It is only connected with the Italian or Moorish in this respect, that the opacity of the enamels is produced by the oxide of tin; but as we have not in England the calcareous clay for making the real article, we have been obliged to adapt, as well as we could, the old processes to the materials at our disposal.

“At present, English majolica [He is still referring to his tin-glaze ware with the English body] is very popular, and without a rival for garden decoration, as it stands exposure to the weather better than ordinary earthenware, besides the impossibility of the latter receiving the opaque enamels without crazing or chipping.

Majolica [Still referring to his/Minton’s version of tin-glaze ware: English body with opaque white tin-glaze, brush-painted with metal-oxide colors] was produced for the first time by Messrs. Minton, in 1850 [Minton actually launched TWO new products at the Great Exhibition in 1851, ‘majolica’ and ‘palissy ware’], and they have been for many years the only producers of this article. It is only five or six years ago [1871] that Messrs. Maw, of Broseley, in Shropshire (and very lately the Worcester manufactory), have made a pottery of the same kind [This is further proof that he is still referring to tin-glaze. Lead-glaze ware was copied and in production by multiple manufacturers long before 1871].

“The name of majolica is now applied indiscriminately to all fancy articles of coloured pottery. When, however, it is decorated by means of coloured glazes [He means coloured lead glazes], if these are transparent, it ought to be called Palissy ware, from the name of the great artist who used these for his beautiful works [Referring to Bernard Palissy, father of French ceramics, working mid-16th century]. Messrs. Wedgwood, George Jones, and a few other makers of less importance, are reproducing it more or less successfully [Amusing comment, but it does prove he is now referring to the lead-glaze ware we now call Majolica].

Online source: British Manufacturing Industry, Leon Arnoux, 1877

2. Mid-19th century what other word was commonly used in England for Italian tin-glaze maiolica?

A. Majolica   B. Majolika   A. MAJOLICA

The South Kensington Museum’s 1875 initiative to encourage the use of the ‘i’ spelling as in ‘maiolica’ (in place of the ‘j’ spelling as in ‘majolica’) to distinguish tin-glaze from lead-glaze earthenware appears to have been largely ignored.

The result was that all three meanings of the word MAJOLICA remained in use: the first, majolica meaning tin-glaze Italian maiolica; the second majolica to describe what we now call Victorian majolica; and the third the ‘majolica’ name Minton gave to his own tin-glaze version of tin-glazed Italian maiolica using local clays which Arnoux sometimes calls ‘English majolica’.

Solon 1907 History of Majolica
Mark-Louis Solon, 1907, “A History of Italian Majolica”. Ignoring the South Kensington Museum’s initiative he uses the word ‘majolica’ for tin-glazed Italian maiolica which is the sole content

In 1907 Mark-Louis Solon [he married the daughter of Leon Arnoux], makes no mention of lead-glazed earthenware in his publication ‘A HISTORY AND DESCRIPTION of ITALIAN MAJOLICA’.

He uses the anglicized word ‘majolica’ in place of ‘maiolica’ throughout. His bibliography further illustrates the general use of ‘Majolica’ for Italian tin-glaze Renaissance earthenware:

“MEURER Italienische Majolika Fliesen. Berlin 1881; FORTNUM Catalogue of Majolica in South Kensington Museum. London, 1873; BECKWITH Majolica and Faience. New York, 1877; WALLIS The Majolica Pavements of the 15th Century. 1902; FALKE Majolika. Berlin, 1896″

3. Tin glaze is a mix of silicates (sand), potash (or similar), lead oxide and tin oxide.

A. True  B. False  B. TRUE
Fortnum, 1875, on tin-glaze:

“We shall be occupied with the glazed and enamelled wares: the first of which may be again divided into siliceous or glass glazed, and plumbeous or lead glazed.

“In these subdivisions the foundation is in all cases the same. The mixed clay or “paste” or “body” (varied in composition  according to the nature of the glaze to be superimposed) is formed  by the hand, or on the wheel, or impressed into moulds ; then  slowly dried and baked in a furnace or stove, after which, on cooling, it is in a state to receive the glaze.

“This is prepared by fusing sand or other siliceous material with potash or soda to form a translucent glass, the composition, in the main, of the glaze upon siliceous wares. The addition of a varying but considerable quantity of the oxide of lead, by which it is rendered more easily  fusible but still translucent, constitutes the glaze of plumbeous wares: and the further addition of the oxide of tin produces an  enamel of an opaque white of great purity, which is the characteristic glazing of stanniferous or tin-glazed wares.”

Online source: Fortnum, 1875 on GLAZES

4. Lead glaze is a mix of silicates, potash (or similar) and the oxide of lead

A. True  B. False  A. TRUE

Fortnum, 1875, on lead-glaze:

“We shall be occupied with the glazed and enamelled wares: the first of which may be again divided into siliceous or glass glazed, and plumbeous or lead glazed.

“In these subdivisions the foundation is in all cases the same. The mixed clay or “paste” or “body” (varied in composition  according to the nature of the glaze to be superimposed) is formed  by the hand, or on the wheel, or impressed into moulds ; then  slowly dried and baked in a furnace or stove, after which, on cooling, it is in a state to receive the glaze.

“This is prepared by fusing sand or other siliceous material with potash or soda to form a translucent glass, the composition, in the main, of the glaze upon siliceous wares. The addition of a varying but considerable quantity of the oxide of lead, by which it is rendered more easily  fusible but still translucent, constitutes the glaze of plumbeous wares: and the further addition of the oxide of tin produces an  enamel of an opaque white of great purity, which is the characteristic glazing of stanniferous or tin-glazed wares.

Online source: Fortnum, 1875 on GLAZES

5. What were the public calling Minton’s ‘Palissy ware’ by 1875?

A. Portuguese Palissy  B. English Palissy  C. majolica  D. maiolica

C. MAJOLICA

Leon Arnoux, 1877, on ‘Palissy ware’ and ‘majolica’:

[Comments in brackets are ours]

Leon Arnoux 1877 on Palissy ware and majolica

“Majolica [Minton’s version of Italian tin-glaze maiolica – English body, opaque white tin-glaze, painted enamel decoration] was produced for the first time by Messrs. Minton, in 1850 [Minton actually launched TWO new products at the 1851 Great Exhibition, ‘majolica’ and ‘Palissy’ and they have been for many years the only producers of this article. It is only five or six years ago [1871] that Messrs. Maw, of Broseley, in Shropshire (and very lately the Worcester manufactory), have made a pottery of the same kind [This is a further indication that he is referring to tin-glaze. Lead-glaze ware was copied and mass-produced by multiple manufacturers before 1871]. The name of majolica is now applied indiscriminately to all fancy articles of coloured pottery. When, however, it is decorated by means of coloured glazes [He means coloured lead glazes], if these are transparent, it ought to be called Palissy ware, from the name of the great artist who used these for his beautiful works [Referring to Bernard Palissy, another great Frenchman, working mid-16th century]. Messrs. Wedgwood, George Jones, and a few other makers of less importance, are reproducing it more or less successfully [Amusing comment. But it does prove he is referring to the lead-glaze ware we now call Majolica].

Online source: British Manufacturing Industry, Leon Arnoux, 1877

6. Minton’s ‘Majolica’ product exhibited in 1851 became a

A. commercial success copied throughout Europe and US  B. commercial failure copied by almost nobody  B. Commercial failure copied by almost nobody

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

We need no proof of the success of Minton’s 1851 ‘Palissy ware’ known later as ‘majolica’. Minton’s 1851 tin-glaze ‘Majolica’ however is virtually unknown, a commercial failure, despite its superb quality.

7. Writing in 1877 Leon Arnoux refers to Minton, Wedgwood and George Jones as manufacturers of…

A. Palissy ware B. Majolica  A. PALISSY WARE

Arnoux, 1877:
[Comments in brackets are ours]
“The name of majolica is now applied indiscriminately to all fancy articles of coloured pottery. When, however, it is decorated by means of coloured glazes [He means coloured lead-glazes], if these are transparent, it ought to be called Palissy ware, from the name of the great artist who used these for his beautiful works [Referring to Bernard Palissy, another great Frenchman, working mid 16th century]. Messrs. Wedgwood, George Jones, and a few other makers of less importance, are reproducing it more or less successfully [Amusing comment, but it does prove he is referring to the lead-glaze ware we now call Majolica].”

Online source: British Manufacturing Industry, Leon Arnoux, 1877

8. How many of these 3 products had lead in the glaze in 1860?

Victorian majolica, Italian maiolica, Delftware?  A. 3  B. 2  C. 1   A. ALL THREE

Which ones have lead in the glaze?

Victorian majolica  YES. Silicates + potash + lead oxide

Italian maiolica  YES. Silicates + potash + lead oxide + tin oxide

Delftware  YES. Silicates + potash + lead oxide + tin oxide

Delftware is a development of Italian tin-glaze maiolica

“…the French and Delft faïences, which were a transformation of majolica [a transformation of tin-glaze maiolica]…”

Online source: British Manufacturing Industry, Leon Arnoux, 1877, pages 8,9 and 12, on delftware and faience.

9. How many of these three products had tin in the glaze in 1860?

Victorian majolica, Italian maiolica, Delftware?  A. 3  B. 2  C. 1    B. ONLY TWO

Which ones have tin in the glaze?

Victorian majolica  NO.  Silicates + potash + lead oxide  NO TIN

[Updated answer Nov. 2016 – YES.  The phrase ‘Victorian majolica’ has to include not only the mass produced vibrant whimsical lead-glazed product we call ‘majolica’ but also the rare tin-glazed product in imitation of Italian maiolica that Minton annoyingly called ‘majolica’ also.]

Italian maiolica   YES.  Silicates + potash + lead oxide + tin oxide

Delftware  YES.  Silicates + potash + lead oxide + tin oxide

10. How is the look of tin-glaze earthenware best described?

A. An opaque white enamel with colored decoration  B. A covering of opaque white enamel, brush-painted with coloured decoration  C. A covering of opaque white enamel with painted decoration in the Italian style.   B. A covering of opaque white enamel, brush-painted with colored decoration 

Urbino ware
Tin-glaze Italian maiolica, Urbino ware pitcher, circa 1570

A.  ‘An opaque white enamel with colored decoration’ does not say how it is colored. Tin-glaze earthenware is usually brush painted (lead-glaze is usually ‘block colored’)

B.  ‘A covering of opaque white enamel, brush-painted with coloured decoration’ THIS FITS ALL CRITERIA

C.  ‘A covering of opaque white enamel with painted decoration in the Italian style’ Tin-glaze earthenware is not always decorated in the Italian style. For example Delftware is tin-glaze often decorated in the Chinese style.

Look and ye shall see. Lead-glaze earthenware. Tin-glaze earthenware.  We know they are different. We can see they are different.

Below are two helpful pictures of lead-glaze products.

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

First, a detail of a Victorian majolica lead-glaze ‘miss’ conveniently illustrating three characteristics of lead-glaze earthenware:

1. Unglazed buff body beneath

2. Vibrant coloured translucent lead-glazes

3. Method of application which one might describe as ‘solid colored’ as compared with the usually fine brush-strokes found on tin-glaze earthenware

Finally, in case anyone thinks lead glazing was actually invented by Arnoux in 1850, check out this 27 inches tall Chinese horse.

This guy is approximately seventeen centuries old. Look at the color run on the green glaze! 1,700 years have passed and still we see this problem even from the best makers.

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Majolica Definition – MORE on Victorian majolica pottery

Majolica? Maiolica? What is it?

We ended our last blog feeling our way towards definitions:


Majolica

G Jones victorian majolica pottery cheese keep
George Jones victorian majolica cheese keep and base, circa 1875

+ Earthenware with a range of lead-glaze colors applied directly to the biscuit simultaneously, then fired

Developed in 1849 named ‘Palissy ware’, later becoming known as ‘majolica’ (same name as Minton’s rare tin-glazed product SEE BELOW)

+ Frequently molded in relief and naturalistic in style

By 1875 had become a huge commercial success imitated by forty manufacturers across Europe and the US.

 

Click here for more examples of Victorian majolica pottery.


 

Maiolica

Urbino ware, as opposed to victorian majolica pottery
Sixteenth century ‘Urbino ware’. Italian maiolica, tin-glaze, opaque white enamel with painted decoration

+ Tin-glaze is applied, dipped or painted, to the biscuit and allowed to dry. Then decorated with painted brush work and fired. The result is a distinctive opaque white layer with painted decoration.

+ Tin-glaze earthenware in Italy has always been known as ‘maiolica’. In England in 1849 Minton/Arnoux produced a product in imitation of the old Italian maiolica but using Engish clays, which they very inconveniently named ‘majolica’.

+ ‘Tin glaze’ describes the effect of adding a little tin oxide to ‘the mix’ of sand + potash + lead oxide + tin oxide. Tin is the smallest proportion in the mix but produces the wonderful opaque white colour glaze that ‘takes’ brush painted enamel decoration so beautifully.

Now it is time to try to nail some things down. One essential fact is key to understanding. Then we’ll go to the evidence. Ready for this?

An essential fact

Unpublished until Paul Atterbury co-authored ‘Dictionary of Minton’ an essential truth is that between 1849 and 1851 Leon Arnoux invented for Minton not one, but two new products both soon to be known as ‘majolica’: ‘majolica’ and ‘Palissy ware’. Both received their first public airing at the Great Exhibition of 1851.


The first they called ‘majolica’

The word ‘majolica’, an anglicisation of the Italian word ‘maiolica’, was already in general use in England to describe tin-glaze maiolica in the Italian style.

‘Maiolica’ is the Italian word for tin-glaze earthenware characterised by opaque white enamel (glaze) with hand painted decoration.

Minton’s tin-glaze imitation ‘maiolica’ that he called ‘majolica’ was gorgeous pottery, but sadly a commercial flop.

Almost no other makers copied it. Today any item of Minton’s tin-glaze imitation Italian maiolica that they called ‘majolica’ is a rare find.

Minton tin glaze maiolica plate 1861 commercially a flop whereas victorian majolica pottery was a resounding success
Detail of rare Minton Queen Victoria commemorative plate, date cypher possibly 1853, impressed and script ‘MINTON’, tin-glaze earthenware with painted decoration

The second they called ‘Palissy ware’

The public however came to call this ‘majolica’ also. Now (1855) we have two distinct products being called by the same name. Minton’s ‘Palissy ware’ is today known as ‘Victorian majolica pottery’. Lead glazed molded earthenware objects for the growing merchant classes, both useful and decorative, in styles both classical and later more naturalistic. Made between 1851 and 1900.  Characterised by rich vibrant colors, elegant, richly sculpted sometimes whimsical even humorous designs from conservatory tables to flower holders.

Victorian majolica pottery

Doulton Lambeth Victorian majolica pottery lead glaze conservatory table
Doulton Lambeth Victorian majolica lead glaze conservatory table
George Jones victorian majolica pottery donkey flower holder
George Jones lead glaze victorian majolica donkey flower holder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here for more examples of Victorian majolica pottery.

 

By 1875 lead-glaze Victorian majolica pottery had become a commercial sensation. Makers in Europe and US re-invented Arnoux’s glazes and kilns manufacturing a profusion of forms in slightly different palettes. Today the magic of majolica enraptures decorators and collectors alike.

And now for the evidence


The first they called ‘majolica’

Arnoux Tin-glaze Definition

Q. What “sixteenth century” pottery is this author referring to?

A.  “…the ancient majolica”. In England the word ‘maiolica’ was usually anglicised to ‘majolica’.

Q. What do we understand by ‘majolica’?

A. A glaze of “Sand, lead, and tin.” The addition of tin turns a plumbeous or lead glaze into a stanniferous or tin glaze.

Clearly the author is talking about tin-glazed pottery. Who is the author? None other than Leon Arnoux, inventor of Minton’s ‘majolica’, tin-glaze pottery in imitation of Italian maiolica using English clays. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Another Italian maiolica expert of the era was C. Fortnum Drury, big time collector, author of ‘MAIOLICA’ published by South Kensington Museum in 1875. He explains the process by which tin-glazed wares are made.

“We shall be occupied with the glazed and enamelled wares: the first of which may be again divided into siliceous or glass glazed, and plumbeous or lead glazed. In these subdivisions the foundation is in all cases the same. The mixed clay or ‘paste’ or ‘body’ varied in composition according to the nature of the glaze to be superimposed is formed by the hand, or on the wheel, or impressed into moulds ; then slowly dried and baked in a furnace or stove, after which, on cooling, it is in a state to receive the glaze. This is prepared by fusing sand or other siliceous material with potash or soda to form a translucent glass, the composition, in the main, of the glaze upon siliceous wares. The addition of a varying but considerable quantity of the oxide of lead, by which it is rendered more easily fusible but still translucent, constitutes the glaze of plumbeous wares : and the further addition of the oxide of tin produces an enamel of an opaque white of great purity, which is the characteristic glazing of stanniferous or tin-glazed wares.


The second they called ‘Palissy ware’

References to Minton’s lead-glaze Palissy ware are few and far between. The public were calling it ‘majolica’ within a few years of its introduction. There was confusion as to the difference between the two types of pottery that were called by the same name. Many 19th century authors and compilers did not even mention lead-glaze ‘Palissy ware’.

Evidence of two types of pottery, Minton’s ‘majolica’ and ‘Palissy’

Let us look at two extracts from the inventor himself. Here is a link to a free ebook “British Manufacturing Industries” published 1877. Leon Arnoux authors the section on POTTERY. In it he refers to ‘majolica’ and ‘Palissy’ [‘Palissy ware’], the names Minton and Arnoux gave to what we now know as ‘maiolica’ and  ‘Victorian majolica’. He leaves no doubt as to what he is talking about. Highlighting and comments in brackets are mine.

“Some of these makers do not devote all their attention to earthenware, but produce other classes of pottery. Amongst the sorts which are most connected with earthenware are majolica [‘maiolica’, tin-glaze earthenware], Palissy [Minton’s ‘Palissy ware’ first shown in 1851, later called by the public ‘majolica’ , today’s ‘Victorian majolica’], Persian ware, and flooring and wall tiles. [types of pottery]

Leon Arnoux 1877 on Palissy ware and majolica
Leon Arnoux 1877 on Palissy ware and majolica

Minton’s Majolica = tin-glaze maiolica, imitated by almost nobody, a commercial flop.

Minton’s Palissy ware = lead-glaze majolica, imitated by 30 or more manufacturers including Wedgwood and George Jones, a huge commercial success. Most Victorian majolica is lead-glaze, a very few items are tin-glaze, and a very few are lead-glaze with a tin-glaze enamel decorated panel.

 

 

 

Click here for more examples of Victorian majolica pottery

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Majolica Pottery – Introduction UPDATED

Majolica Definitions…

This is the first of a series of Majolica blogs. In this blog we remind ourselves of a few definitions and the enormous scope for decorators, collectors and antique enthusiasts.

Majolica seated boys comport made by Joseph Holdcroft, circa 1880
Majolica comport by Joseph Holdcroft, circa 1880

In subsequent blogs we will explain the appeal, the many types, the makers, the countries, more on the history and some insights on value, care, collecting and conservation.

Our Madelena online store has in excess of 400 pieces of Antique Victorian English and European Majolica for sale.

Our Majolica for sale can be viewed here.

Antique. Antique means over 100 years old.

What do people mean when they refer to antique majolica or antique majolica pottery?

Majolica teapot by Joseph Holdcroft, circa 1880
Majolica teapot by Joseph Holdcroft, circa 1880

The rule is that anything over 100 years old is antique.

Not only the art and antiques trade but also Customs & Excise departments the world over use this definition.

When people use the term ‘vintage’, they are likely to be talking about an object less than 100 years old, possibly fewer than fifty.

Majolica. Lead glaze.

When we say ‘majolica’ we mean the whimsical, richly colored, intelligent pottery that makes you smile.

Majolica monkey and tortoise figural by Copeland, circa 1877.
Majolica monkey and tortoise figural by Copeland, circa 1877.

Known today as Victorian majolica it was launched in 1851 by Mintons as ‘Palissy ware’.

New lead glazes and a special kiln were invented by Leon Arnoux working for Minton.

Victorian refers to the years of production from 1851 to 1900.

Queen Victoria reigned until her death in January 1901.

Her consort Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg was not so lucky having died of typhoid four decades earlier, in 1861.

The monkey and tortoise figure by Minton was named “Sloth and Mischief”.

Maiolica. Tin glaze.

Tin glaze earthenware pottery has been manufactured from before 1500 to the present day.

Maiolica charger, Italian, circa 1525
Maiolica charger, Italian, circa 1525

Maiolica (Italian), delft ware (Dutch) and faience (French) are all types of tin-glaze earthenware pottery entirely distinct from lead-glaze earthenware.

Confusingly ‘majolica’ and ‘maiolica’ have over centuries been used interchangeably.

We will return to the causes of confusion in another blog.

As long ago as 1875 the South Kensington Museum made a first attempt at persuading the public to use ‘maiolica’ only for tin-glaze and ‘majolica’ only for lead glaze. They published two booklets entitled Maiolica (tin glaze) and Majolica (lead glaze) to make clear the distinction. Further enquiry reveals that only ‘MAIOLICA’ was published. The ‘MAJOLICA’ publication was a spelling error which the V&A museum (formerly the South Kensington Museum) will correct in due time. Only when we asked to read it did they realise the error.

Magical Home Décor

Perfect for interior and exterior décor, majolica

Majolica sardine box with diver finial, by George Jones, circa 1874.
Majolica sardine box with diver finial, by George Jones, circa 1874.

was suitable for everything from floor tiles to the finest figurines.

It worked as well for a delicate dressing table set as it did for a monumental water fountain.

Its amazing versatility in home decoration, then as now, is due to its durability, color, creativity and range.

Flora and fauna

The very English passion for nature and for the English garden translated wonderfully into objects for the home. Lush colors to  brighten hallways. Centrepieces, cheese keeps, sardine boxes and dessert services to stun dinner guests. Bedroom table sets adorned with butterflies. Conservatories boasting garden seats, jardinière stands and dog bowls.

Majolica cat jug by Minton, circa 1875.
Miniature Majolica cat jug by Minton, circa 1875.

Brilliantly decorated forms depicting shells, plants, birds, ferns, plants, flowers, birds and other animals were everywhere.

Lions, monkeys, and dogs are as popular now as they were in their day.

Cats however were not as popular in Victorian times.

Today, because so few were made, they are very rare.

Trade and Exploration

Back in 1860 the British Empire was at its greatest and proudest.

Majolica teapot/kettle by Minton, circa 1877
Majolica teapot/kettle by Minton, circa 1877. The bamboo theme is an example of Chinese and Japanese influence on fashionable home décor.

Interest in the world at large continued also to broaden. Booming trade with the East brought everything ‘oriental’ suddenly back into fashion. A further flush of national pride following Petrie’s excavations in Egypt also found expression in majolica.

Underlying the design of every interior is a sense of taste and discernment. Also a subtle appreciation for the connection between our interior décor with history and art.

 

Further reading on majolica pottery can be found on this link: Discover Majolica

Majolica International Society  provides an online forum for majolica lovers. Conventions, symposiums, fellowship and fun are all part of the service.

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Majolica Definition – 2015

MAJOLICA DEFINITION

What IS majolica? Or is it maiolica? What’s the difference?

Start here. Which is the odd one out?

Result of Google Images search for 'Majolica'
Result of a Google Images search for ‘majolica‘, March 2015

You spotted it. The dish with chicks looks different in style. This could help us with our majolica definition.

George Jones Majolica Game Pie Dish
George Jones Victorian majolica pottery ‘full nest’ game pie dish

 The glazes look a little different too.

Majolica and Maiolica up close
Majolica and Maiolica from Google ‘majolica‘ search – up close

Shiny runny colours versus strokes which appear painted on with a brush.

Could this indicate a difference in manufacture? This might also help us with our majolica definition.

 

 

 

Now we are looking at plates only.

majolica plate - google search results
Google Images search for ‘majolica plate’, June 2015

Can you still see a difference in style? Sure you can.

Naturalistic vs Italian style Majolica and Maiolica
‘Italian’ vs ‘naturalistic’ style in Majolica and Maiolica

One group is kinda Italian. The other group is kinda naturalistic.

There is also a difference in how they are made but we’ll come to that shortly. Let’s press on with style.

 

 

Difference in Style

Italian Majolica from Google Search
Google Images search for ‘Italian majolica’, June 2015

Here’s more of that Italian looking stuff. Nothing naturalistic here. This is ‘Italian maiolica’. Earthenware with opaque white glaze and painted decoration in the Renaissance style. For centuries the above style of pottery has been called ‘maiolica’.

Unfortunately at various times and in various countries it has also been called ‘majolica’ and still is. Awkward.

Dictionaries, search engines and encyclopaedias reflect that the words are sometimes used interchangeably. Many give the primary majolica definition as ‘maiolica’. Google does the same but add a qualifier such as ‘Victorian’ or ‘Austrian’ or ‘American’ and Google gets it right.

Victorian Majolica definition Google images search
Google images search for ‘victorian majolica’, June 2015.

This google search shows us what we are looking for. Majolica made in the Victorian era 1851 to 1900. This is our ‘majolica’. Earthenware covered with richly colored glazes frequently relief decorated and naturalistic in style.

Majolica definition has morphed over the centuries. We clearly have two different types of pottery. To help clarify the situation let us try to compare them. The key differences we have shown in bold.

First, the names used.

WHEN:MAJOLICA (Victorian majolica)MAIOLICA
Pre-19th CenturyN/AMaiolica, majolica, fayence, delft
19th CenturyPalissy ware, majolicaMajolica, maiolica, delft

19th Century majolica was introduced by Minton as ‘Palissy ware’. The public preferred to call it ‘majolica’ which nowadays we call ‘Victorian majolica’. Maiolica has been referred to as both ‘Maiolica’ and ‘Majolica’, as well as fayence, delft and other names.

Next, the predominant styles.

WHEN:MAJOLICA (Victorian majolica)MAIOLICA
Pre-19th CenturyN/ARenaissance
19th CenturyNaturalistic, Renaissance RevivalRenaissance Revival

Note the predominantly naturalistic style of 19th Century Victorian Majolica. Maiolica all through the ages is predominantly Renaissance in style.

Finally, differences in the glazes and how the pottery is made.

Property:MAJOLICA (Victorian majolica)MAIOLICA
Earthenware BodyYesYes
1st firingBiscuitBiscuit
(Unfired) Glaze layer to biscuitNoYES
Tin Glaze layerNoYES (sand+potash+lead+tin)
Opaque whiteNoYES
Colored Lead GlazesYES (sand+potash+lead) to biscuitNo
TranslucentYES but looks opaqueNo
Painted DecorationUsually NoYES to unfired glaze layer
2nd firing finalUsually YesUsually Yes

Note some key differences: Majolica’s richly colored lead glazes are applied direct to the biscuit. Maiolica’s tin glaze is applied to the biscuit unfired, then decorated with painted brush work before firing. The result is the distinctive opaque white layer with painted decoration. Note also the centuries old term ‘tin glaze’ describes the effect of adding tin, not the main ingredient in ‘the mix’.

Summary

Maiolica definition – Earthenware covered with opaque white tin glaze with painted decoration in Renaissance styles.

Majolica definition – Earthenware covered with richly colored lead glazes frequently relief decorated and naturalistic in style.

Not everyone agrees. So we have been investigating and cross-referencing. A future blog will explore the many causes of confusion. It is a fascinating journey. We revisit extracts from key publications going back to 1851.

The OED (Oxford English Dictionary) Sense (definition) majolica, n. 3. “A type of 19th-cent. earthenware with coloured decoration on an opaque white tin (or sometimes lead) glaze”. This takes care of Minton’s rare tin-glaze product but ignores Minton’s popular earthenware with colored lead glazes applied direct to the biscuit that was perhaps the most successful pottery of the Victorian era.

We will propose a sense (definition) majolica, n. 4. , with citations (quotations) in support.

World’s largest online gallery of MAJOLICA

Majolica International Society

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Majolica Magic in Homes & Antiques

World’s largest online gallery of MAJOLICA
MADELENA Shop, Sell, Discover
Majolica International Society

MAJOLICA

 The pottery that’s this season’s hottest must-have

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Above is the October 2013 issue of the BBC Homes and Antiques magazine. Antique majolica is back in vogue, this season’s hottest must-have!

Ellie Tennant, the interiors journalist wrote the piece. She does a great job communicating the appeal of this magical ceramic. Ellie interviews well known figures for her article. Many of you will know Nick Dawes the author of “Majolica” from his Antiques Road Show appearances. Deborah English is a collector and scholar building a definitive online majolica library. Carol Harkess is another keen collector, President of the Majolica International Society and latest member of the ‘bunny club’.

The items displayed in the beautiful interiors photographed by Homes & Antiques were loaned by Madelena.

The article runs to seven pages and is very positive and enthusiastic about all the things that make antique majolica so incredibly appealing. We hope to obtain a pdf to share with you, but meanwhile here are some pictures to be going on with.

More great articles are to be found in the members library Majolica International Society

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Green majolica plates, sardine dishes, game pie dishes, Palissy cup and saucer and various serving trays
Green majolica plates, sardine dishes, game pie dishes, Palissy cup and saucer and various serving trays

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George Jones tea service (part). George Jones was a self made man, whose work perfectly captured the birds, plants and ferns of the English garden
George Jones tea service (part). George Jones was a self made man, whose work perfectly captured the birds, plants and ferns of the English garden

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George Jones shell and seaweed server; George Jones Storks and Lilies garden seat
George Jones shell and seaweed server; George Jones Storks and Lilies garden seat

 

More magical majolica

More pictures, non-professional this time, of majolica in home décor, from around Christmas time…

A cosy fireside. More pairs…

Large pair blackamoor figures
Large pair blackamoor figures

A cuppa waiting to be sipped. George Jones Drum cup and saucer
More cups…

George Jones drum cup and saucer
George Jones drum cup and saucer

Cheese, nuts and (English) biscuits on the table for later. More serving dishes… More cheese domes…

Wedgwood cheese dome and stand, George Jones squirrel nut dish, and two majolica plates
Wedgwood cheese dome and stand, George Jones squirrel nut dish, and two majolica plates

…and fruit decorating the counter More baskets…

Minton cats and basket vase
Minton cats and basket vase

How marvellous majolica looks in the home!  Bright, fresh, quirky, a joy for persons of taste and discernment or just for beauty and fun.

World’s largest online gallery of MAJOLICA
MADELENA Shop, Sell, Discover
Majolica International Society

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