George and the Dragon

Majolica: A brief history.

Maiolica pottery originated in North Africa and travelled into Europe via Spain, and then was exported to Italy via the island of Majorca, hence the name. From Italy it spread to France and the rest of Europe.
Majolica pottery was developed at Mintons by Leon Arnoux (a Frenchman) and Herbert Minton during the late 1840s.
Herbert Minton had met Arnoux on a tour of France in 1848, and shortly afterwards Arnoux accepted an invitation to work in England, to help develop and produce Majolica at Minton's. Both men shared an appreciation of Maiolica and Palissy wares, and there is no doubt that Minton was also influenced by Whieldon and Astbury pottery produced in Staffordshire from 1740 - 1790.

Some of the Majolica produced was an imitation of Italian maiolica & 16th century Palissy wares, but there were also items made that were uniquely Victorian, and were influenced by naturalism, Japonism, Darwin's origin of species, and the revival of renaissance and Gothic taste introduced by Augustus Pugin. The result often being unusual and whimsical shapes. Minton's introduced their new pottery at the 1851 exhibition to great success, with Queen Victoria being one of majolica's new admirers. Other potteries soon started manufacturing, notably George Jones, Wedgwood, Brown Westhead Moore, Copeland, and Joseph Holdcroft, Brownfield & Royal Worcester.
The height of majolica production was probably a fountain of George and the Dragon manufactured by Mintons and designed by John Thomas for the 1862 Exhibition in London. It measured 36 feet high and 39 feet in diameter (see photo). By the 1890's Majolica's popularity had waned, and production had wound down, with art nouveau taking over as the latest fashion.
By 1900 most production had ceased. It is also worth mentioning the influence of the
French potter Bernard Palissy who lived in France circa 1510-1590.
This type of pottery is typified by platters covered with snakes, lizards, fish, shells and other marine life, molded in high relief. During his life he enjoyed considerable success, with Catherine de Medici (the future Queen of France) acting as his Patron.
Palissy ware had a revival in France in the 19th century under Charles-Jean Avisseau & J.Landais, who also exhibited at the same 1851 exhibition in London that Minton's premiered Majolica. Palissy type wares were also made in Portugal from 1853 by Mafra & son, their product usually having a shredded clay back ground in green, with applied snakes and lizards. Production continues today.

Suggested Reading:

-Minton First 200 years of design & production by Joan Jones, Swanhill press.
-Dictionary of Minton, Atterbury & Batkin
- Antiques collectors club 19th century French followers of Palissy, Marshall P. Katz
- Palissy ware, Marshall P.Katz & Robert Lehr, athlone.
- Majolica, Nicholas Dawes, Crown publishers.
- Majolica, Victoria Bergesen, Barrie & Jenkins.
- Majolica A complete History, Marilyn Karmason, Abrams.