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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Ice storm hammers Rowan; many still without powerSalisbury Post, March 7th
Extra Photos. Shavonne Potts/Salisbury Post A bush slid down an embankment at Majolica and Sherrills Ford Roads. Related Content. Superintendent calls schools situation 'worst case scenario'. The bus slid down an embankment and struck a natural gas ...Read more
Superintendent calls schools situation 'worst case scenario'Salisbury Post, March 7th
The driver and three students on their way to West Rowan High School were on a school bus Friday morning when it slid down an embankment at Majolica and Sherrills Ford roads. The bus hit a natural gas main. No one was injured and the leak was ...Read more
School bus hits ice, slides off road in Rowan CountyWNCN, March 7th
When the bus tried to turn off of Sherrills Ford Road on Majolica Road it hit an icy spot and slid down an embankment into a natural gas substation, rupturing a gas line. Emergency crews worked for several hours to carefully remove the bus from the...Read more
School bus slides down embankment, strikes gas lineWCNC, March 7th
One result of the adverse weather condition is a bus crash off Sherills Ford and Majolica Roads in Salisbury. Officials on the scene said the school bus hit a patch of ice, slid down an embankment and struck a gas line. No injuries were reported; only...Read more
Icy mess causing wrecks, power outagesSalisbury Post, March 7th
Emergency scanner reports indicate a school bus has slid down an embankment at Majolica and Sherrills Ford roads. Officials have not yet arrived at the scene. Power is out along South Salisbury Avenue in Spencer and North Main Street in Salisbury to...Read more
Best Bets: Events for Sunday, March 9The Journal News | LoHud.com, March 5th
old linens, letter openers, Elegant and Depression glass, china, silver, Royal Copenhagen, Hummels, majolica, kitchen collectibles, letter openers, political items, vintage art and thousands of other vintage items. For more information: 914-723...Read more
Peek Into Brooklyn's Turreted, Antique-Filled Victorian ManseCurbed NY, March 5th
And luckily, the perfect house in both size and style was waiting for them—and for the Bradbury & Bradbury wallpaper with which Libraty has graced the walls; the spectacular, shimmering chandeliers that now hang from the ceilings; the antique Majolica...Read more
How Care2 Members Saved the Life of Buddy the DogCare2.com, February 12th
2014 has been a good year so far for 83-year-old Homer Majolica. Since last November, the San Antonio retiree had been without his beloved dog, Buddy. For two months, Buddy was held in a kennel at the Animal Care Services Brooks City-Base facility...Read more