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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Gilty Ware

( Originally Published 1913 )



Too,little is written about metallic lustre-ware, a kind of pottery typically English, and hardly attempted abroad; the only foreign make of the kind I know consists of putty-coloured paste, ornamented with platinum-lustred designs in relief, and is French, I understand, though you seldom see it even in France. " Gilty ware " is the Irish name for lustred pottery, but I do not know that any was ever made in Ireland. I fancy that the affiliation usually assumed between lustreware and Gubbio majolica is historically incorrect, though perhaps at Brislington they copied some of the designs on Hispano-Moresque lustrous pottery ; the probability is that " silver lustre " came into being here spontaneously, as a showy, cheap substitute for Georgian silver and Sheffield plate.

There could hardly be a more interesting keramic subject for research, and yet no book has ever been written on it. Sir Arthur Church, Mr. Sachs, Mr. Lawlor, the brothers Rhead, and Mr. Blacker have written instructive chapters or articles on the topic, but what is needed is a book by a lustre-collector who has specialised.

Nomenclature. Even the names for the different varieties of lustre-colour are not standardised yet. I own six dinner-plates-the only examples of the size and colour I have ever seen-which would receive different names from different collectors. They are mottled over by a lustrous colour, which a milliner would call " crushed strawberry," a very good description ; but while one collector would call it " purple lustre," another would call it " gold," and another " pink." How many of us, I wonder, can distinguish between " steel " and " silver " lustre. Or between " copper " and " bronze"? Some authoritative classification of terms needs to be made.

The Connections. Or who has studied the connections between the porcelain or earthenware produced at Swansea, say, and the lustre-ware made at the same place ? What connection had Bristol porcelain with Bristol (Brislington) lustre-ware ? The fine Parian figures made at Temple Backs, Bristol, about 1830, by an artist-workman called Raby, what effect did they have upon local lustre-ware ? Raby removed to Staffordshire, and may have influenced lustre-ware there. Lustre ware with white reliefs on it is often seen. A valued correspondent tells me that in Bristol not long ago " in a filthy shop " he pounced upon a particularly fine, thin, small, well-modelled jug, early Bristol-Pountney copper-lustre, and chalkwreath under the lustre. This chalkwreath reminds one of the wonderful Bristol biscuit work, and unquestionably emanated from the same school, by a pupil or otherwise. The modelling, lightness, and small size of the jug also make it interesting. It carries the usual Bristol rose and rosebud in flat colours on the full lustre glaze, a " charming bit of good colour."

" Only connect " is the motto of a brilliant novel recently published. To seek out connections is a collector's most refined delight-the intellectual delight of research. If you know these wonderful Bristol porcelain flower-plaques-I found one very cheaply a few years ago-on which the most exquisite stamens, petals, and leaves stand up, tiny, distinct, and finished, and all baked by great heat out of china-clay and chinastone, you can understand my correspondent's connecting these with the " chalkwreath " under lustre that came from Pountney's Bristol pottery; and his " query, by Raby ? " But if Raby worked in Stafford shire, the jug may be Staffordshire, perhaps ? What collector of lustre-ware will seek these connections out ?

Lustre on Porcelain. Lustre-ware proper is pottery -earthenware-but at Swansea and in Staffordshire they used crushed-strawberry lustre to decorate porcelain. At Belleek, too, that interesting Irish pottery which is always being said to have come to an end, they used on their delicate china a most beautiful motherof-pearl lustre. Sir Arthur Church wrote that " except by Mr. William de Morgan at Chelsea in the last quarter of the nineteenth century we do not know of any attempt having been made with success in England to obtain the madre-perla lustre by the use of silver," but that is in Professor Church's book on " English Earthenware," and " Belleek " is Irish and porcelain. The magnificent ware made by Mr. de Morganfamous now as the author of " Somehow Good " and " It Never Can Happen Again "-is no longer produced; the pottery is closed, the tiles and vases, all richly lustrous, have been sold off, except for a small supply on sale in the Brompton Road; so that this kind of English lustre-ware " never can happen again."

Lustred Chalices. In chapels, chapels-of-ease, and new poor churches, it used to be customary to have the Communion vessels made of lustre-ware, faute de mieux; of silver or gold they had none. Sometimes you see examples, the double-handled wine-cups, for instance, on sale in dealers' shops. When gold or silver vessels were purchased by a richer offertory, the lustre chalices were displaced.

Chalice is not the word for a beer-mug, but even the lustred beer-mug with a handle has become rare. Yet forty years ago it could be seen on the boards outside nearly every inn in the Midlands. So quickly do customs change, and perishable vessels die.



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