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    

Antique French Faience Longchamp Majolica Barbotine Pottery Applied Flower VaseLarge Antique 19thc Victorian Majolica Pottery Bust Of Elizabethan Lady, NrOld Antique Wedgwood Majolica Shell Coral Seaweed Teapot Coffeepot SignedRare Sarreguemines French Majolica John Bull 3429 Character JugAntique Griffin Smith & Hall Etruscan Majolica Leaf Art Pottery PlateFine Victorian English Majolica ~ Begonia Leaves ~ Basket Weave Pitcher C1880 Nr1 Majolica Dish That Is Real Old.Antique Majolica Dog With Hat-flake On Rim-top To Tobacco Jar. No Reserve!Magnificent Antique German Art Nouveau Hugo Lonitz Vase 19th Century MasterpieceAntique German Majolica Geranium Plate Circa 1818-1875Exquisite Pair Of Large C.1870 Marked Gerbing & Stephan Majolica Mantle VasesSuperb 19thc Cobalt Majolica Sardine Box With Fish On Bed Of Seaweed On Lid4 Wedgwood Ceramic Majolica Green Cabbage Veined Leaf Plates Beauties Vg-exc C3 Majolica Dishes That Are Real Old.Majolica Plate George Jones Daisy Cobalt And TurquoiseRare Griffin Smith & Hill Etruscan Majolica Shell & Seaweed Ice Cream DishAntique Etruscan Majolica 9" Iridescent Basketweave Leaf Art Plate Smith & HillAntique Majolica Leaf Plate Ca 1880 Green Brown YellowVintage - Antique French Majolica, Higgins & Seiter Pottery, Bunny Rabbit Cup & Antique Italian Faience Majolica Pottery Vase C.1900Pottery Vase Ceramic Faience Albarello Italian Majolica Apothecary Apoteke JarPottery Vase Ceramic Faience Albarello Italian Majolica Apothecary Jar ChemistAntique Majolica Begonia & Basketweave Leaf Plate Ca 1880Gorgeous French Majolica 13" Vase W/ Raised Spider Mums Mottled Green GlazeGriffin Smith Hill Etruscan Majolica Covered Box With Bird Antique Italian Majolica Albarello / Pharmacy Apothecary Pottery Vase CeramicAlbarello Majolica Italian Chemist Apothecary Jar Vase Pottery Medical CeramicFarkas Asian Lady Face Wall Mask Hand Painted Antique Majolica Faience Nr YqzPair Antique Victorian Art Nouveau Majolica Pottery Thistle Motif Vases / EwersMinton Majolica Fish PlaqueVintage - Antique French Majolica Choisy Le Roi Pottery Bunny Rabbit PlateAntique Majolica Monkey Figure On Log With PipeAntique Wedgwood Majolica Turquoise Bowls C1877Large Majolica Hand Crafted Vase Applied Grapes # 4418 Shield Mark AntiqueApothecary Jar Chemist Pottery Vase Ceramic Faience Albarello Italian Majolica Etruscan Majolica Water Lily & Swan Sardine BoxApothecary Jar Chemist Faience Vase Pottery Ceramic Pharmacy Albarello Majolica Set 6 Antique Deruta Italian Majolica Pottery Remekin Bowls Teal Rooster Nr Sale19th Cent Majolica Plate Wedgwood George Jones SarregueminesAntique 19thc George Jones Majolica Arum Lily Pattern Jug19th Century English Victorian Majolica Decorative Plate With Image Of A Dog2 Matching Vintage Majolica Cobalt Blue Oyster Shell Footed Dish Red Green BrownAntique Griffin Smith Hill Oak Leaf Plate Early Mark!Cute Antique Majolica 6" Vase Figural Boy & Baby In Wagon Next To Tree Ca. 1900Antique Majolica Plate Ca 1880 Basketweave Flower & FernRare European Majolica Bottle - Cat With Fish!Italian Majolica Apothecary Jar Ceramic Faience Albarello Chemist Pottery VaseMichel Caugant Majolica Tureen Dish Pheasant Hand Painted France Large 23cms Lovely Antique Majolica Sugar Bowl With Lid Deruta Italy Italian Pottery Raffaellesco Mug Cup Dragon Mediterranean ColorsGreen Bordallo Pinheiro Green Rabbit Majolica 8 1/2"pitcher Perfect !!Antique Griffin Smith Hill Begonia Leaf Plate Early MarkAntique Majolica Begonia Leaf Plate Ca 1880Pharmacy Albarello Majolica Chemist Apothecary Jar Vase Pottery Medical JugItalian Majolica Apothecary Drug Jar Medical Pottery Vase Ceramic Jug Albarello Della Robbia 20in Fine Old Italian Majolica Large Size Shrine Plaque NoreserveEtruscan Majolica Griffen Smith Hill Victorian Antique Begonia Leaf Pickle DishVery Rare German Majolica Cherub Sconces By Anton LangItalian Majolica Apothecary Drug Jar Medical Pottery Vase Ceramic Jug Albarello Early 18 Century Majolica Plaque Castelli Style With Crowned 'bc' Marks (4764)

Recent News: Majolica

Source: Google News

St. Tammany Art Association hosts 'Get Fired Up!' to raise money for new kiln
The Times-Picayune, April 23rd

The raffle's pottery pieces include a large blue Majolica bowl decorated with lemons and other accents. It is valued at $400 and was made by Hasslock, who also works on tile and paper. The talented potter specializes in Majolica, a style of pottery...Read more

Craster WI, April meeting
Northumberland Gazette, April 19th

On our table we had brought a wide variety of articles to be valued, from a Mousey Thompson cheeseboard, a carriage clock with a case, a small Steiff bear from the 1930s, various pieces of china – Belleek, Maling, Majolica, Mason, Wedgwood – and some ...Read more

The 52nd Annual Anti: Distinguished antique dealers from acros
HamletHub, April 18th

ironstone, folk art, fine jewelry, vintage purses; fine quality antique paintings, rugs, quilts, English and French copper, primitives, 18th and 19th century furniture, antique toys, books, vintage linens, treenware, garden items, lighting...Read more

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Goldfinch'
Washington Times, April 18th

“Through the dusty windows [he] saw Staffordshire dogs and majolica cats, dusty crystal, tarnished silver, antique chairs and settees upholstered in sallow old brocade, an elaborate faience birdcage, miniature marble obelisks atop a marble-topped...Read more

Gallery Loop, 419 Day set for Saturday fun
Toledo Blade, April 16th

Also on the loop is a beautiful display of Mexican majolica pottery at La Galeria, two miles south of downtown at 1224 Broadway St., 3 to 8 p.m. The 16 pieces, including five large murals made from tiles, were painted by contemporary artists who...Read more

The disappointing novel that just won a Pulitzer Prize
Washington Post, April 15th

“The Goldfinch” is full of delicious-sounding names, girandôle necklaces and majolica pottery, action sequences in Amsterdam and brittle comedies of manners in New York. But for all the details and objects she invokes, in “The Goldfinch,” Tartt's still...Read more

Collecting old corkscrews can present a challenge
Washington Observer Reporter, April 10th

Majolica umbrella stand, Art Nouveau, grapes, brown ground, 23 inches, $120. • Mobilgas toy tanker, tin lithograph, red, white, friction, Japan, box, 8 inches, $140. • Jacquard coverlet, blue, green, red, flowers, by William Ney, Meyerstown, Lebanon Co...Read more

For una bella casa, visit Bellini's Antique Italia
La Jolla Light, April 9th

Deruta is famous for its colorful majolica-type pieces and hand-painted garden tabletops constructed from volcanic stone. The store stocks and imports Tuscan terracotta pottery from Impruneta, a hill behind Florence, which is world famous for producing...Read more