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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Over 2000 foreign tourists visit TabrizZawya (registration), August 29th
Once built, artists took a further 25 years to cover every surface with the blue majolica tiles and intricate calligraphy for which it's so nicknamed. It survived one of history's worst-ever earthquakes (1727), but collapsed in a later quake (1773...Read more
Estate Sale Roundup: August 28-31: Timing is key in all things, especially in ...Austin Chronicle, August 28th
There is Coalport, Majolica, Burlington, Staffordshire, a 1920's Murano glass dessert set; PV, Nippon, Bohemian, and Bavarian dishes; Wedgewood and Minton. This is a great sale for dealers. Cash, checks with ID, and credit cards are accepted. 7810...Read more
Man jumps into woman's car, makes her drive, steals her money but gives her $5 ...WBTV, August 28th
According to the police report, the incident began when a witness called police to report a fight taking place in the parking lot of the Exxon gas station near Majolica Road on Statesville Boulevard. The witness described seeing one man down on the...Read more
'Worlds of Wonder' highlights local talent at DorskyPoughkeepsie Journal, August 27th
The color and patterns from the paintings are continued in the majolica plates, referencing historical process and created with a contemporary approach to design. On the floor, Angela Voulgarelis's "Paperwork," a collection of picture postcards...Read more
Six Chicago hotel pools worthy for a dip this Labor Day weekendVoices, August 26th
Relics from bygone years remain — rows of seating recall days when swimming was a more popular spectator sport, while the terra cotta fountain of Neptune and blue Spanish majolica tiles lend an old-world luxury feel. Rates start at $239 for Friday and...Read more
Man loses marijuana at Chick-fil-A, cited for simple possessionSalisbury Post, August 22nd
Cody Lane Morris, 24, was charged with possession with intent to manufacture, sell or deliver cocaine in the 1600 block of Majolica Rd. in Salisbury. • Howard Lee Sims, 49, was charged with selling and delivering Schedule II drugs. • Lentz T. Bates, 53...Read more
Oh grow you don't; deputies bust pot growing operationWBTV, August 21st
After the execution of the Spencer search warrant, deputies executed two search warrants at 1685 Majolica Road, Salisbury, and an adjoining parcel of property. Deputies discovered evidence that a marijuana manufacturing operation had been present in an ...Read more
Sheriff's Department scores hit against pot-growing operationSalisbury Post, August 21st
Information obtained indicated Morris had growing operations at his residence, 1685 Majolica Road; an adjoining parcel on Majolica Road; 118 Polo Drive, Salisbury; and 303 South Rowan Ave., Spencer. Investigators also suspected that a residence at 503 ...Read more