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Collecting Pottery:
Collecting Old Continental Pottery

Henri Deux Ware, Etc.
Palissy Ware
Paris And Its Environs
Glazed Pottery Of France

Stoneware Of Germany
German And Other Guilds

Stockholm, Rorstrand, and Marieberg

Delft: The Old Signs Of The Potters

Majolica And Luca Della Robia
Castel Durante
Naples, Rimini, Monte Feltro, And Forli
Siena, Monte Lupo, And Pisa
Fabriano, Viterbo, Rome
Venice, Treviso, Bassano, Milan, Etc.

Persia And Damascus
Persian And Other Tiles
Rhodes, Asiatic Turkey, Etc.

Hispano-Moresque Ware

The ABC Of Collecting Old Pottery

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

"Scanty the hour, and few the steps, beyond the bourn of care," KEATS.

The history and nature of pottery form a subject the materials of which are exceedingly varied, widely scattered, and not easily brought together; they, of course, differ in character with the periods to which they relate, and at certain periods are much rarer than at others. The interest of such a subject must be felt by any one who appreciates Art as the expression of civilisation.

Everywhere in the Old and New World where man has lived, and moved, and had his being, even in prehistoric ages, he has left memorials of his skill in making pottery. Vessels for cooking food and holding it, vessels for drinking, and urns for the ashes of the dead, have been uncovered in the graves, barrows, and tombs of primitive man, whose open fires baked the clay utensils which his father's fathers had only been able to dry in the sun. We are told in Genesis that the whole earth was of one language and speech when men started to build the Tower of Babel, and they said one to another: "Go to, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly." And today bricks are burnt in piles in the open air as well as in the kilns which were devised long ago, when the invention of the potter's wheel made them necessary.

The wheel and the burning fiery furnace paved the way for ornamentation, which heretofore had consisted of linesstraight, crossed, or zigzag, seldom curved-scratched or pressed in the clay before firing, and these two processes are even now in active operation. Civilisation advanced with man's ability to control a fire and to make it subservient to his will, and progress was slow, for generation after generation passed away after using similar ungainly pots, the paste of which was coarse, and the potting and burning alike imperfect, besides they were porous. Some genius in the Orient displayed marvellous ability in inventing a glaze; then the use of glazes was followed by coloured enamels in the kingdoms of Babylon and Assyria, Egypt and Phoenicia, and Persia and China, whose potters were skilled artisans when compared with those of the Western world-yet no one knows when glaze or enamel was first introduced.

We get a glimpse of the making of enamelled tiles from China, where powdered glazes made with a lead flux were employed. These were applied to the tiles by a method similar to salt-glazing. When the tiles were stacked in the kiln, the fires were lighted, and when the proper degree of heat was attained, the powdered enamel, thrown through openings at the top of the kiln, melted upon the exposed surface of the tiles and coated them with a rich, deep glaze. The bricks of Babylon had a glaze formed from the silicates of soda and lead, coloured green by copper, white by tin, yellow by antimony and lead, and brown by iron, whilst the Egyptian turquoise-blue enamel contained copper and soda. Similar metallic oxides are in use today.

Amongst the Greeks, during the highest development of their art, 700 to 200 B.C. an exceedingly fine black glaze, with a unique lustre, covered ware of classical beauty, whilst the Romans excelled in a glaze described as sealing-wax red, which they brought with them to the places which they saw and conquered. This red Samian ware, decorated with subjects in relief, was rediscovered in the Middle Ages, but the secret of the glaze was lost, and, though fine terra cotta, without any glaze, attracted the attention of great artists like Andrea Verrocchio and Antonio Rossellino, it remained for Luca della Robbia to perfect the tin enamel as a glaze for his terra cotta, and to use it in conjunction with vitrifiable colours. In the various sections the glazes are considered in more detail: let us now examine the paste or body of the pottery itself and determine its classification, into which the glazes enter.

Pottery of the ordinary kind, unglazed, is so soft that it may be easily scratched with a sharp-pointed piece of iron, which has no effect on hard pottery. Between the soft body of a common flower-pot and such hard pottery as stoneware or ironstone are many grades of hardness, whilst the colour of the ware itself ranges from white, through many shades of yellow and red, to black.

Soft, fusible earthenware melts in the heat of the grand f eu. It includes the following classes :

(a) Unglazed ware, simply baked clay, as flower-pots, architectural and other terra cotta, and common bricks.

(b) Lustrous ware, made of selected clay and coated either with lead or with a silicious or glassy substance.

(c) Glazed ware with a coat of red lead, one of the oxides of lead, later in date than and used on much of the modern ware.

(d) Glazed ware in which felspar is one of the chief constituents.

(e) Enamelled ware, with an opaque tin-enamel glaze, used on most of the faience. The majolica of Italy was tin-enamelled, but during its later period a final film of lead-glaze or coperta was applied.

Stoneware is characterised by hardness and infusibility, both of which are due to the silica contained in the body. The sub-divisions of silicious ware are:

(a) Coated with a vitreous glaze usually containing lead.

(b) Salt-glazed, generally white, drab, or grey ware, coated with a silicate of soda, derived partly from common salt, partly from the silica in the clay.

(c) Glazed with a mixed glaze, in which the chief elements are soda and oxide of iron.

Many references are made to the glazes in the course of the various chapters, so we may pass on with this note only: for practical purposes there are three classes of glazes-the vitreous or glassy, the plumbeous or lead, and the salt.

Tin enamel has been spoken of as a glaze because it is employed as a covering for the whole surface of the ware. Really an enamel is a glass formed into a flux in which different metallic oxides are present, which give it its colour. Its exact composition, and therefore the nature of the materials used, depends on the degree of colour, fusibility, etc., required. It may be transparent or opaque. If tin is used, a beautiful opaque white enamel is produced, and if tin is added to transparent enamels, as it usually is for this purpose, they are rendered opaque. The oxides of lead or antimony give yellow, that of iron yields red; copper differs in its results according to the degree of oxidation in the kiln. Whilst a beautiful green is one of its products, in a reducing atmosphere it assumes a blood-red colour. Should the firing be changed to a higher degree of oxidation, the colour becomes blue, though the usual blue is from the oxide of cobalt, and aubergine or violet from manganese. A mixture of these different enamels produces a great variety of intermediate colours. The flux or glass containing the colour is reduced to an impalpable powder, and, for brushwork, this is mixed into a paste with oil of lavender, and employed as a paint, then fired and fixed.

When we consider the finished product in its pristine beauty-a vase,it maybe, just issued from the kiln-we wonder at the skill of the painter who, as long as the work is in progress, cannot see what the result will be, for his palette, with its special arrangement of colours, bears no resemblance to the display of colours upon pieces when they have been submitted to the kiln, where the oxidising or the reducing fire has an influence upon all of the metallic oxides. The hazards of the firing may be reduced to a minimum, but they are always present, and much havoc may be wrought by a current of air.

Those beautiful colours, found in the lustred wares, belong to another class of decoration with metallic colours. Although the secret of the old Italian lustres has been, to a certain extent, recovered, the beauty of the ruby lustre, which is the peculiar characteristic of the works of Maestro Giorgio, remains the admiration of the ceramic world, its iridescent liquidity conferring special distinction upon his larger pieces as well as upon the smaller ornamental pieces, called amatoriee-generally plates, dishes, or vases-adorned with the portrait and name of the favoured mistresses to whom they were presented by their lovers. Turning to England, in 1810, a Lane End potter, Peter Warburton, applied for a patent for " decorating china, porcelain, earthenware, and glass with native pure or unadulterated gold, silver, platina, or other metals fluxed or lowered with lead or any other substance, which invention or new method leaves the metals, after being burned in their metallic state." This English lustre is not comparable to the old ruby, nor to the old madreperla, with nacreous reflections; nor is it soft and sheeny like that on Hispano-Moresque ware. We know that precipitate of gold yields the pinks, but what did Maestro Giorgio use ? We see the lovely colour in the finishing touches of fine Gubbio ware, the wonder-work of a great artist, and still are left inquiring.

Side by side with this painted and lustred majolica, and, generally, classed with it as majolica, was a coarser ware, mezzo-majolica, which had no tin-enamel coating, but one of engobe. This was a semi-fluid earthy paste of whitish or creamy colour, used as a slip to cover the paste or body, upon which, when the pieces were dry enough to handle, designs were scratched with a point which removed the white slip so that the darker body showed them. This scratched or graffito or sgrafliato decoration was often accompanied by painting like that on true majolica. Such paintings in both cases were on either terre crue, raw clay, or terye cuite, fired clay. The tin enamel, in the one case, and the slip coating in the other, formed the surface which received the painted decoration. The graffiti designs were glazed together with the paintings by being dipped into a transparent lead glaze, the common mavza-cotto, over which the lustre colours were applied. Under majolica more is said on these points.

Other methods of decoration led to the application of slip ornament; of ornaments cut and shaped, then applied to the ware by means of slip; of ornaments impressed by means of moulds or stamps upon strips of clay which were transferred to the ware and stuck on by slip; of similar ornaments in relief, moulded upon suitable pieces of clay which were first stuck on the ware and afterwards, when the impression was finished, the surplus clay outside the area of the mould was scraped off by a tool. Wood, metal, stone and, later, plaster moulds were employed to furnish ornament-not always in relief, sometimes in intaglio or en creux, that is, hollow-where coats-of-arms and monograms, flowers, foliage and figures, mottoes and inscriptions are seen with many other designs.

Germany appears to have been first in making stoneware and in decorating it with ornaments applied with wooden moulds. Salt-glazed stoneware drinking-vessels-pots, jugs, and mugs-now very much valued, show fine armorial ornament, and rare subjects with figures, all in relief. These will receive higher appreciation still when fuller knowledge and the rich man's purse move in conjunction. Already the old generic name gres de Flandve has yielded before the allocation of the wares to their places of origin; already, too, the varying productions of the districts around Cologne and Coblentz, for example, are being traced to the hands that made them, and though the difficulties yet to be over come are many, the prospects are promising. The stoneware of Flanders, the real gres de Flandre, and that of the North of France, take a secondary place now.

Yet France fears no comparison with her faience. True, one atelier followed for some years the Italian style of Urbino ; that was Nevers, where a prince's wealth, as in Italy, was devoted to it. Nevertheless the embroidery patterns of Rouen, the bouquets of flowers and the lambrequin style, bear their own distinction-a national one-in which the Midi and the North of France take their due share with Nevers, above a host of towns scattered throughout the country. Their glory and the glory of French faience was in the blue-painted early ware, and in the later blue and rouge de fer decoration with delicate combinations after Berain and other decorators, because they were French. Yet, another style, the Oriental, always in polychrome, had a success scarcely less brilliant, for which Rouen again deserves most praise.

Elsewhere, as in Holland, and specially at Delft, the Oriental influence was for a time overpowering. Rouen polychrome decoration and Delft ware similarly treated stand together at the head of the faience painted in the style of the Orient: even in their finest blue painting they can hardly be divided. However, to Delft came the best opportunities with the import of the productions of the Chinese and Japanese potters by the ships of the Dutch East India Company. For over two centuries, ending about 1813, the little town, whose population was never more than 25,000, made the ware which gave its name to the tin-enamelled pottery made in England from about the middle of the seventeenth century-to Lambeth delft, Bristol delft, Liverpool delft. To us Delft sent Jan Ariens Van Hamme(n), a noted potter, and one whose work at Lambeth is ill-defined. Did the brothers Elers come from Delft, where the red-ware teapots were also made, about 1658 ? Are the initials I. F. for Johannes, i.e. Jan, Filippus, the J being an I ? John Philip Elers probably used the mark I. F. A Dutchman declares it is so, and we have every reason to think he is quite correct, though we have no present proof that the Elers were Dutchmen from Delft.

We look at home and regret the paucity of information regarding the men who made Bow china and painted Battersea enamel and the like. Where are the records? What do we know of the delft of Wincanton in Somerset ? These and other questions arise when we think of the men to whom we owe so much for their researches into old Continental pottery, such as M. Jacquemart and his friend M. Gasnault, and M. Havard, as well as those whose names appear with these in the Preface. More recently, in Germany, the faience of Hanau and Frankfort has been investigated with striking results, and that nation, with its admirable system of education, is developing the taste for collecting, bidding against the world for what it wants. The United States of America, through its millionaires, is accumulating the treasures of the Old World, its busy rich men finding that collections of pictures and all objects of art furnish the relaxation they require, and they rejoice in them entirely as being also a cachet of culture. And, most recent of all, Australia has been attracted by the same desire to possess old things, for Mr. John Shorter (September 1912) cites one store where 2,090 articles-objects of art-were sold during the first month. Needless, then, is it to say more, for the conviction is forced upon us that, as wealth and knowledge increase, collections multiply; and if one proverb could be a continual caution to the beginner in buying it is this: "Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding."

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