With its bold colours and whimsical designs many say there is no antique Victorian pottery more magnificent than Wedgwood Majolica. Minton’s Ltd, the originators of majolica in 1851, first named it Palissy ware due to the naturalistic designs of flora and fauna that decorated the pieces. These designs were heavily influenced by Bernard Palissey, a 16th century potter. Minton’s had been creating tin-glazed pottery that was similar to Italian maiolica for a while and soon anglicised the Italian to majolica, making it the new name for the pottery.
The earthenware pieces soon became extremely popular among Victorians who loved them for their stunning designs and flamboyant colours. With their increased knowledge, the Victorians were able to use a broader range of colours than the Renaissance Italians, with sapphire, emerald green, turquoise, pink, blue and yellow all featuring heavily in Victorian Majolica.
To get their unique look, Victorian Majolica is made from earthenware which was fired before being glazed with an opaque glaze containing either lead or tin. Once this glaze dried the piece would be glazed again with a brighter, translucent glaze before once again being fired. This process created a piece that was unique to the 1800s. The popularity of majolica took off fast after Herbert Minton displayed pieces at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Crystal Palace. The pottery he displayed ranged in size from small dinnerware pieces to large garden fountains.
The popularity of Minton’s majolica meant that many companies started to produce their own majolica in order to compete. Ceramics giant, Wedgwood, threw their hat into the ring in 1860; nearly a decade after Minton’s first started producing majolica. Wedgwood pieces are almost always marked and attract a premium price. They are also typically denser and more formal than Minton’s, although there are pieces that have the same naturalism and whimsy of those made by Minton’s. Wedgwood made a large range of majolica pieces, including candlesticks, cachepots, pitchers, umbrella stands, plates, bread trays, platters, salt pots and teapots. When collecting Victorian Majolica it is important to make sure the pieces are authentic as there are lots of cheap 20th century copies around.