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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Gouda Design

Gouda Design

Stuart Lonsdale and Kim Lindley's excellent tribute to and reference on Gouda Dutch Art Pottery and Delftware. The … [read review or visit site]

Cowan Pottery Museum Associates

Cowan Pottery Museum Associates

Dedicated to raising awareness of the ceramic art work of R. Guy Cowan and his Cowan Pottery Studio in northeastern… [read review or visit site]

The Pottery Studio

The Pottery Studio

This 7,000-plus page site lives up to its self-billing as a 'knowledge base' with examples of work from all major a… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Lovely Antique Old Handel Table Lamp With Painted Glass Shade Artist SignedMajolica Mccoy Blended Glaze Art Pottery Umbrella Stand Lotus Lily Nouveau YqzHuge 1900s Austrian Dressler Art Nouveau Pottery Majolica Umbrella Stand Nr YqzAntique Green Yellow Brown Glaze ~ Acorn & Oak Leaf ~ Majolica Tray Platter NrEnglish George Jones Majolica Rare Turquoise Floral Pitcher -no Reserve! Large Impressive Antique George Jones Majolica Pottery Covered Urn VaseOld Antique Majolica Pottery Yellow & Green Pineapple Teapot Minton, George Jones Majolica Very Fine Pocket In The Form Of A Masked HeadC1890 Etruscan Majolica Blue Sunflower Syrup Pitcher By Griffen Smith And HillMajolica Pitcher Iv0ry Textured Bark Pink Flowers Green Leaves AntiqueFabulous Etruscan Majolica , Shell And Seaweed,, 7 Inch PlateRare Sarreguemines D.v. Majolica Figural Bulldog Pitcher Jug Dog 4024 France NrVintage Majolica Palmer Cox Brownie Match Holder And StrikerMackenzie Childs 2-pc Chicken Casserole Dish And Lid PiccadillyFrench Barbotine Gros Relief Majolica Vase Jean Marie Pointu 13.5 InchesLongwy Or Bordeaux Pottery Majolica Large Tile 19th Century 10 InchesEtruscan Majolica Plate With Bright Pink Edge- Excellent! No ReserveAntique Desvres French Faience Majolica Emile Galle Style Cat Glass Eyes StatueAntique Maresch Majolica Portrait Plaque Victorian Lady Classical Woman YqzMajolica Mccoy Blended Glaze Art Pottery Umbrella Stand Lotus Lily Nouveau YqzTwo Pair English Wedgwood Majolica Reticultated Stork Plates - No Reserve!English George Jones Majolica Floral Basket Weave Pitcher - No ReserveVintage Large Italian Majolica Fox Shaped Water Pitcher – Hand-paintedMackenzie Childs Salad Plate HeatherMajolica Jardiniere & Pedestal - Antique Mackenzie Childs Salad Plate Summer FrockAntique Holdcroft British Majolica - Boy On Goat Figure - Damaged But Unusual!Mackenzie Childs Salad Plate AuroraMackenzie Childs Salad Plate AalsmeerMackenzie Childs Rim Cereal Bowl Rose CottageOld Gsh, Griffin Smith Hill Etruscan Majolica Begonia Leaf DishTwo, Pair Of Majolica Etruscan Butter Pats. - No Reserve!Oyster Plate Germany C&t MajolicaAntique Majolica Art Potter Sunflower PitcherAntique French Majolica Faience Sarreguemines Strawberry Jam Jar & PlateMackenzie Childs Salad Plate MadisonGeorgeous 19th C. Majolica Bread Tray- Pink, GreenAntique Etruscan Majolica Griffin, Smith & Hill Begonia Leaf Dish=1879-1892Antique Glazed Hand Painted Majolica Plate Tufted Crested Bird & Grapes/berriesImmaculate Majolica Etruscan Gsh Basketweave Maple Leaf Dinner Plate - 1880Antique French Majolica Plates, Sunflowers, Four (4) Antique 19th C American Pottery Majolica Large Toby Jug Mayer Trenton Nj Nr YqzPair Antique Green Glazed Leaf Design Majolica PlatesMajolica Pitcher, With Leaves And Ferns, English, Late 19th C. French Majolica Oyster Plate, St ClementA Very Nice Vintage French Hand Painted Faience Pottery Bird On Base.Mackenzie Childs Cheese/butter Dish/ Dome & Platter Honeymoon Morning GloryMajolica Oyster Plate Sarreguemines English George Jones Majolica Rare Turquoise Floral Pitcher - Buy It NowVintage Majolica Plate Featuring Raised Green Leaves On Creamy Beige BackgroundLovely Frie Onnaing Majolica Pitcher, 655 Made In FrancePair Of English Majolica Pug Dog Pitchers Majolica Etruscan Albino Shell & Seaweed Tea Sugar Bowl With Lid/handles #320Vintage Art Pottery Italy Hand Crafted & Painted Boy Draw A Cart Figurine, 5" TMajolica France Rabbit Plate Choisy Le Roi Higgins- Seiter Bunny PlateWannopee Majolica Cabbage Lettuce Leaf Form Pottery PlateAuthentic French St Clement Majolica Parrot Pitcher C 1900Majolica France Rabbit Plate Choisy Le Roi Higgins- Seiter19thc Choisy Le Roi Majolica Aesthetic Japanese Style "swimming "dessert Plate-Carvalhinho Porto Portugal Faience Inkwell

Recent News: Majolica

Source: Google News

Auctions & Fairs
Irish Times, April 17th

A Victorian “Egyptian Revival” majolica (glazed earthenware pottery) garden seat €4,000 (€200-€300); a pair of Georgian mahogany bookcases €3,800 (€4,000-€7,000); a Wedgewood dinner service in the “Kutami” pattern €1,050 (€250-€350); a document ...Read more

Excavations at the Railyard
Santa Fe New Mexican, April 17th

Almost 95 percent of the finds were sherds of historic Pueblo ceramics, but there were also sheep, goat, and cow bones; glass and metal Euroamerican artifacts; majolica; a glass bead; a square-cut nail; and other items. Badner said the midden showed ...Read more

Greater Morristown weekend preview: Gardens of Earthly Delights
Morristown Green, April 16th

More than 40 antique dealers from five states are coming; look for automobile collectibles, early American and Victorian furniture, Lionel trains, stoneware, rare books and prints, 19th century vintage prints, porcelain, Majolica, Roseville, Daltons...Read more

Treasured Possessions, Fitzwiliam Museum, review: 'genuinely original'
Telegraph.co.uk, April 13th

And so, as herbs and spices from America and the Far East began to be sold in large quantities in 16th century Europe, apothecaries presented their wares in wonderfully embellished majolica vessels. To reassure customers that they were getting what...Read more

I must be getting old
Daily Local News, April 10th

There are exhibits on the Lenni-Lenape Indians, early agriculture, majolica pottery, abolition, Lincoln University, women's rights and several other subjects. Local conventional artists including Barclay Rubincam and Horace Pippin are also featured...Read more

Bacall's Effects
London Review of Books (subscription) (blog), April 10th

'Going from room to room,' she writes in her 1994 memoir, Now, 'I am faced with one or more of my collections, my follies: books, pewter, brass, Delft, majolica, tables, chairs, things… how did it happen, the acquiring of all this, the accumulation of...Read more

Fine Majolica at Auction
Maine Antique Digest, February 23rd

At the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition in Hyde Park, London, Herbert Minton introduced Victorian majolica, a new line of ceramics based on Renaissance designs and natural forms with rich lead-glazed colors: bright green, yellow, turquoise, and deep...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