When Minton & Company of Staffordshire exhibited a new line of ceramics at The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, the firm called it Palissy ware. The name came from a 16th-century Frenchman named Bernard Palissy, whose vividly colored, high-relief, lead-glazed plates, platters, and pitchers had inspired Minton’s new, French-born art director, Léon Arnoux.

The word majolica was also used to describe the ware, since it had some commonalities with the tin-glazed 16th-century Spanish and Italian earthenware of the same name. But even though Palissy ware was a more accurate description of Minton’s new line, the work quickly became known as majolica.

Before long there was a majolica renaissance in Europe and the United States. A great deal of it was made in Italy by firms such as Ginori and Cantagalli. In Germany, the Royal Porcelain Manufactory was known for its majolica.

What these companies shared was a vocabulary of images and style that was at once exuberant and uniform. All used bright colors splashed on reliefs of plants and animals. This was fun ware for the common man, and it sold as quickly as Minton and others could produce it.

Naturally Wedgwood and other Staffordshire stalwarts wanted a piece of this action, even though Minton had about a 10-year head start. Predictably, Wedgwood majolica was more formal than Minton’s and used humor with restraint. While some potteries were producing teapots in the shapes of cauliflowers, Wedgwood stuck mostly to basket-weave patterns and relief foliage on the outsides of its standard shapes.

In the United States, a similar fascination with majolica took hold around the same time as the Minton debut. As in England, potteries coated their ware with clear glazes, so that the pieces positively shined. Griffen, Smith & Hill was one prominent Pennsylvania manufacturer, who sometimes marked its pieces with “G.S.H.” or labeled them as “Etruscan Pottery.”

Other American companies known for their majolica in the second half of the 19th century were Morrison & Carr, Chesapeake Pottery, and Edwin Bennett. They produced relish dishes,...

One of the most popular majolica forms was the pitcher, which was sometimes designed to appear as if it had been formed from vertical slices of wide bamboo, with more slender bamboo branches employed for the pitcher’s handle. Other pitchers resembled ears of corn, while syrup containers were routinely festooned with fat sunflowers or clusters of lily leaves and flowers.

There were platters and plates, or course, with leaf-shaped plates being a collectible subcategory all its own (begonia leaves were especially popular). Sardine boxes and cigarette holders were also produced—many were topped by African-American figurals, known then as now as blackamoors. And animals from bulldogs to pigs were deemed the perfect shapes within which to store tobacco.

If there was a dark side to the sunny look of majolica it was the process of making it. In 19th-century America, young girls did much of the painting, usually earning as little as 25 cents for a 12-hour day. This was well before child-labor laws, so the idea that these children were expected to work long hours and handle lead glazes was not seriously questioned until the first part of the 20th century. Not surprisingly, the difficult conditions produced work that was often sloppy, as anyone who has seen a majolica vase with colors radically out of register or running down the side can attest.

By the 1890s, the majolica craze was ending in the United States—the technique looked a bit too baroque compared to the ascendant Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau styles. While majolica persisted in Europe, pieces from the 20th century are generally thinner and feature less dramatic relief than those from the century before, which makes them less interesting to collectors.

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Recent News: Majolica

Source: Google News

Holiday pottery sale features local artists
Edmonds Beacon, November 20th

My finished work is a lot like Majolica in style. I also have platters, mugs, casseroles, vases and planters. I probably am most proud of the Maple Leaf pea patch garden shed myself and the community built out of stucco covered hay. Then I worked with...Read more

Covered Bridge Artisans' Studio Tour begins Black Friday
MyCentralJersey.com, November 19th

Phoebe Wiley of the Long Lane Farm Studio outside of Sergeantsville is a maker of majolica platters and bowls painted in original designs with bold color combinations. This year, Wiley's new blue earthenware plates are the color of Chicory flowers in...Read more

Blotter: Police searching for suspects in foiled robbery attempt
Salisbury Post, November 17th

Tamarcus Dyqwon Canady, 21, was charged with intoxicated/disruptive cursing/shouting at others in the 800 block of W. Bank St. Mandrail Jamar Woodberry, 25, was charged with assault on a female in the 1400 block of Majolica Rd. Saturday. Tonya Marie ...Read more

Herald-Mail Media, November 17th

V-neckline gown of ivory Alençon lace over champagne-colored silk charmeuse with an open back and sweep train. She carried a hand-tied garden bouquet of white peonies, ivory ranunculus, quicksand roses and ivory majolica spray roses accented with ...Read more

Collectors: Which of the 15 kinds are you?
Standard-Examiner, November 14th

Just about everyone collects something: matchbooks, sand dollars, George Washington-themed memorabilia or majolica. In “Collected: Living With the Things You Love,” Fritz Karch and Rebecca Robertson present 250 wide-ranging collections, showing how ...Read more

Decorating with stylish tiles
Monroe News Star, November 13th

Tile has a rich and varied history in decor, from Roman floor mosaics to majolica to Delft ceramics to Mexican terracotta. These styles and more continue to inspire artistry. Many of the newest collections of ceramic and porcelain tile were on display...Read more

Cloisonne cranes, Majolica collection, Asian works of art will all be in Elite ...
ArtfixDaily, October 30th

An example from the Majolica collection is a 19th century Austrian cigarette set, featuring a well-dressed black gentleman seated among a group, titled Colorado Fine. The circa-1890s set has incised numbers to the base and comes with a match strike...Read more

Marvellous majolica
Telegraph.co.uk, September 29th

Twenty five years ago, in Britain, majolica was seriously unfashionable. Most ceramic dealers and collectors ignored it, feeling that this flamboyant expression of High Victorian taste was totally out of step with minimalist "modern" aesthetics. Not so...Read more