One thing that makes me so partial to English majolica is the silly foodie-ness of it all.
Before I ever heard the word majolica, I already owned a soup tureen shaped like a head of green cabbage. I’ve been eyeballing sets of those salad plates shaped like green lettuce leaves for years — you know which ones I mean, don’t you? Then I discovered the “good” stuff, like this iconic large monkey teapot with bamboo spout. He’s grasping a yellow coconut and, judging by the finial, his head is the lid. This guy is one expensive pet.
George Jones Majolica Strawberry Dish, molded with Strawberry Leaves. With cream pitcher and sugar bowl ensuite. 14.75″ diameter.
Funny, intricately formed and incredibly colorful majolica was created in Victorian England for 19th century dining tables and garden rooms by serious china companies like Minton and Wedgwood. George Jones, the Leonardo of majolica, is a key name who had his own manufactory. Eventually, majolica was made in America, and reproduction pieces are sold today in stores and catalogs.
George Jones’ pieces like the domed cow cheese keeper with bovine handle are the gold standard of antique majolica and definitely fall into a you-can’t-miss-this-stuff collecting category. You know it when you see it.
Minton catered to Victorian taste for oysters with plates like these (from 1973) which include seaweed and shell decorations. Seafood and shell motifs were very popular.
Covered game pie containers with birds and rabbits (like this is a George Jones “Full Nest” dish) seem so Downton Abbey now that pâtés rarely grace dinner tables.
Minton teapot in the form of a Chinese actor wearing a turquoise floral robe holding a Noh mask. His head is the lid and the handle formed by his braided hair.
There’s a soft spot in my heart for all the funny-looking humans, animals and mythological figures and historical theme pieces, especially when they are made into teapots. The phrase “all the tea in China” comes to mind with this one — revival styles during the late 19th century were commonly inspired by Asia.
I’m especially partial to the fruits and vegetables, trees and flowers and, of course, teapots.
The Victorians actually used majolica like this Etruscan shell and seaweed coffee pot until about 1875 when it became pretty poison, according to information provided by the Majolica Society. Ironically, the glazes that made the vivid pinks, cobalt blues, turquoises and greens look glamorous were lead-based. While many reproduction pieces can be used (I serve soup in my cabbage) old majolica is strictly for display.
Vases as elaborate as this Royal Worcester turquoise basketweave beauty with flowering branches and trunk-form legs have the power to upstage fresh flowers.
And because most majolica is well beyond my budget and bargains are flukes, I always stop to see it at shows, where this rare jardinière (flower pot) with Egyptian motifs was snapped for my virtual majolica collection.