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One of the popular wares on the present-day market is the majolica made in England and America from about 1850 to the end of the century. Its naturalistic plant and animal motifs molded in relief and splashed with bold color and glaze are especially attractive for informal dining-table use, but figures and small decorative articles were also made in Victorian majolica. There is a great deal of this ware on the market and the prices are comparatively reasonable.
Majolica ware derived its name from the lusterware made on the island of Majorca. The term was later applied to the glazed and enameled wares of Italy, which were also made in the 18th century by Wedgwood and Whieldon and finally imitated and cheapened by European and American potters of the 19th century. Majolica ware is decorated by applying colors mixed with the glaze by means of a brush or dipping. Victorian majolica was influenced by the design of the old Cauliflower and Pineapple wares of Whieldon, Wedgwood, and other 18th-century potters. In fact such patterns as Cauliflower, which has a molded surface pattern, were definitely reproduced by English and American potters as well as other raised fruit, vegetable, leaf, and berry patterns, with green and yellow, pink, brown, and light blue and purple-blue. A teapot of yellow corn and green leaves is especially pleasing in design and similar to the old Whieldon Pineapple teapots.
Many late 19th-century majolica designs followed rustic patterns with backgrounds of basketry and wooden-bound buckets decorated with molded flowers, birds, fish, and even squirrels. Handles were of rustic tree branches or rosebush stems or even flowers or leaves twined together, and sometimes jugs and coffeepots and teapots had covers of hard metal similar to Britannia metal. The wild rose was a popular pattern. Another design was of lily pads and herons, and the begonia leaf plate was also popular. Other patterns included shells, coral, seaweed, corn and bamboo stalks, and certain oriental motifs together with borders of basketry. Especially delicate in motif and coloring is the teapot, pitcher, and sugar bowl of pink coral and green seaweed with accents of brown and blue which is marked "Etruscan Majolica."
Cabbage leaves, strawberries and leaves, fern leaves, and sprays of flowers were also molded on the surface of plates, jugs, teapots, and other articles. Some green plates with leaves and strawberries are marked "Hercu laneum." These were not made later than 1841 and are similar to Wedgwood green glaze. In 1850 Minton added the manufacture of majolica to their other art productions and produced useful and ornamental objects, including tiles with designs of naturalistic tulips, violets, hawthorne, bramble, and other flowers in high relief and rich coloring. They also made plates with vine leaves and grapes. Wedgwood "embossed leafage dessert plates and green glazed" continued to be made, and their raised-leaf designs served as inspiration to other potters.
The Trent Pottery, George Jones and Sons, made majolica cupids, shells, dolphins, and coral designs in numerous shapes. Their mark was a monogram of the initials "G.J." joined together. A beehive bread dish with a cover has a design of wild roses against a background of basketwork and has the Trent Pottery mark. Also flowerpots were made in bright colors and with raised designs of natural flowers. T. Furnival & Sons made jugs and plates with raised oriental designs, which had borders of wickerwork in bold color and glaze. Their mark, "Furnival," is impressed in the ware. Majolica was also made by Edward Steele at Hanley, who manufactured both useful and ornamental jugs, flower vases, teapots, dessert services, and centerpieces with fine coloring. Another factory at Hanley in the 1870s was owned by Edward Banks & Thomas Thorley. In majolica they manufactured bread trays, cheese stands, jugs, dessert services, trays, teapots, egg- holders, flowerpots, etc. One of their dessert services has a chocolatecolored ground and a raised naturalistic design of ivy, ferns, and anemones.
This has an embossed "key" border. A jug with a chocolate-colored ground has panels of rope enclosing green thistle leaves. This firm also made green dessert plates with raised leaves. The ware is not marked.
Davenport & Banks or Davenport Beck & Company also made all varieties of majolica. The mark used was a castle and the letters "D.B. & Co. Etruria" within an oval garter bearing "Trade Mark."
Other marked majolica includes that of Joseph Holdcroft, Longton, 1870. A Wren Vase with well-modeled birds and flowers is from this pottery and is marked with an impressed monogram in a circle.
Rustic patterned majolica was made by Poole & Unwin and impressed with their initials in a diamond.
Daniel Sutherland & Sons made majolica from 1863. They made a variety of vases; jugs; flowerpots; boxes for cheese, butter, and sardines; bread, cheese, and fruit dishes; tea- and coffeepots; candlesticks; and other articles. Some are marked "S & S."
Majolica made by James W'oodward was marked with an anchor and cable forming the initials J.W. John Adams & Co. of Hanley made majolica in 1873. Articles included bread trays, cheese trays, candlesticks, flower pots, figures, and vases, and the designs included wheat, ferns, and cattails. The marks were "Adams & Co.," "Adams & Bromley," or "A &B."
There were many other English makers of majolica who had no mark. Majolica was also made by several American firms, the best-known of which is Griffin, Smith & Hill of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, who are known for their Etruscan majolica made from 1880 to 1890. Many pieces were modeled by the Englishman Bourne. These include compotes with dolphin supports and flower, shell, or jewel cups. A design of coral weed and sea shells is one of the most attractive patterns, and tableware was made in designs of leaves and ferns. The mark was an impressed monogram, "G.S.H.," sometimes circled with a band containing the words "Etruscan Majolica" or "Etruscan Majolica" impressed in a horizontal line.
Majolica was also made by Odell & Booth at Tarrytown, 'New York, and at Greenpoint, Long Island, by the Faience Manufacturing Company. The mark is an incised "F.M. Co." This pottery was dipped in colored glazes, and the effect was streaked or marbled. Majolica was also made for a time at Evansville, Indiana. Majolica made at the Chesapeake Pottery in Baltimore was called Clifton Ware and was marked "Clifton Decor `R' " together with the monogram "D.F.H." enclosed in crossed crescents.
As late as 1900 the Arsenal Pottery of Trenton, New Jersey, was making majolica ware and exhibited Toby jugs in imitation of English Tobies at the Chicago Fair. Majolica in many of the old patterns has been repro duced; however, some of the old patterns are still being made on original molds by such factories as Wedgwood.
Without markings, there are no definite rules by which you can distinguish the old majolica from that recently manufactured unless you have that extra sense of feel and touch that tells you that something is old.
From the artistic standpoint much Victorian majolica is harsh in color and poor in design, but such pieces as the green leaf and berry plates, the begonia-leaf condiment dishes, and the delicate coral and seaweed sugar bowl, teapot, and creamer are pleasing in both color and design.