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 Porcelain Majolica Faience Pottery Jardiniere, Cherubs Figur.putti AngelAntique Ginori Italian Majolica Maiolica - Grotesques Footed Flask - Unusual!Good Antique Italian Maiolica Sicilian ? Pottery Charger - 1Good Antique Italian Maiolica Sicilian ? Pottery Charger - 2Majolica Large Oval Serving Dish W/ Berries & Leaves AntiqueAntique Italian Pottery Wet Medicine JarRare Antique Wedgwood Majolica Novelty Boat Shape Sardine Dish Sardinia C1870Antique Etruscan Majolica Leaf Dish By Griffen Smith & Hill Ca 1880 #15 Antique Griffin Smith & Hill Etruscan Leaf Butter Pats19 Th Century Minton ? Majolica Conical Shell Snuff Mull Shaped PotAntique Etruscan Majolica Leaf Dish By Griffen Smith & Hill Ca 1880 #4Unusual Antique French Majolica Bunny Rabbit Pitcher C.1900Antique Choisy-le-roi French Faience Majolica Blossom & Fern With Ribbon PlateBeautiful Old 9" Tall Majolica Pitcher W BirdsVintage Palissy Portuguese Majolica Fish Formed Plate - Unusual!Rare Vintage Large Majolica Footed Jardiniere Planter €Late 19thc Victorian Era Etruscan Majolica Begonia Leaf Dish + Grape PitcherSuperb Antique 19thc George Jones Majolica Sardine Dish Circa 1870Large Bernard Bloch Majolica Monk Figural Cigar Humidor, 19th Century, NrmintAntique Majolica Oyster Shells Plate Trey/platter Vintage 6 Shell Signed Set Of 2 Wedgwood Majolica 1800's Antique PlatesAntique 19th Century Wedgwood "fan Pattern" Majolica Footed Jardiniere (a/f)Antique Holdcroft Majolica Lily Pad Compote Platter Signed Holdcroft England1911 Majolica Pottery Child's Mug "roosevelt Bears" DecorationAntique Majolica Turquoise Blue Glazed Begonia Leaf Plate DishVintage Antique Majolica Pitcher Excellent Condition Large + Beautiful ElegantVintage Majolica Basket Of Corn Small 16 Oz PitcherAntique Majolica Dog Plate Platter C.1880 Green White And BrownAntique Majolica Surgar Bowl & Lid Marked L Powder Blue -w- Flowers & Leaves !Antique Majolica Jardiniere PlanterRare! Antique Majolica Two Handled Low Bowl €French Barbotine Majolica Charger Bird Flowers Choisy-le-roi Hippolyte BoulengerSet Of 12 Majolica Wedgwood Etruria & Barlaston White 8 Inch Cabbage Leaf PlatesAntique Samuel Lear Water Lily Majolica PitcherRare 1910 Austrian Majolica Golfer Vase Beautiful Porcelain W Stunning GlazeRare Antique Czechoslovakia Majolica Pitcher / VaseCirca 1920 Majolica Art Pottery Vase With FrogsMackenzie Childs Bistro White Square Hanging LampAntique Art Nouveau Ceramic Tile J + Jg Low Flowers Majolica 4-1/4" 1881 UsaSuper Cute Vintage 9” Majolica-style Lobster Plate In Excellent Condition! Antique Majolica Cheese Keeper, German905 Antique 19th C Etruscan Majolica Begonia Leaf Hand Painted Dish Plate Majolica Elephant Humidor Lidded Jar Figural Pottery Old Impressed MarkAntique Etruscan Majolica Leaf Dish By Griffen Smith & Hill Ca 1880 #21991 Cbk Nouveau Majolica Wanjiang China Pottery Fish Vase PitcherOld Majolica Art Pottery Creamer Pitcher Blackberry & Fence Beautiful Antique Majolica Pitcher €Antique French Majolica Oyster Plate Emerald Green Sarreguemines SignedPair 12.5" Majolica Forest Scene Boy Girl Mantel Vases As Is ShownHugo Lonitz German Majolica Art Pottery Figural Tureen/urnAntique Majolica Gurgling Fish Pitcher Pottery 9 3/4"Large Sarreguemines Tray, Ca. 1903, Artist Signed, Excellent Condition!Vintage Faience Tin Glazed Majolica Pilgrim Moon Flask Canteen Bottle~stopperVintage 9" Majolica Bowl - Grape & Leaf Design - Marked Gv Or CvSet Of 2 Antique Majolica Luncheon Plates Antique Majolica Begonia Leaf Plate Dish Tan, Cream, Green, Brown,pinksPair Of Antique Italian Maiolica Dishes By CantagalliMaw & Co Majolica Tile Chicago Skyline Art Pottery Folk Framed Lake MichiganAntique Majolica Deer And Dog Hunt Scene 11" PlateAntique Sarreguemines French Majolica Oyster Plate Salmon Green Blue 1900

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

Hershey-Morrisey
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