Victorian Majolica ware was developed by Leon Arnoux at the Minton pottery in Stoke and first shown at London’s Great Exhibition of 1851 under the name Palissy ware. The vigorously modeled and vibrantly colored lead glazed ware was inspired by the work of the eccentric 16th century French potter Bernard Palissy, who modeled realistic subjects from nature in high relief. The name Majolica was derived from the richly decorated Maiolica wares of the Italian Renaissance. Minton continued to make monumental Majolica designs for later Victorian exhibitions, including fountains, jardinières, vases and tile murals.
The popularity of Minton’s Majolica inspired many British potteries to develop their own Majolica glazes. Wedgwood launched their more densely colored designs in 1860. George Jones, who trained as a potter’s apprentice at Minton, opened his own pottery in 1862 and launched a range of Majolica ware in competition with Minton and Wedgwood. In France, Georges Pull revived the Palissy style along with Thomas Victor Sergent. Majolica wares were also made in Sarreguemines in the late 19th century. Majolica ware is collected enthusiastically today and there is a thriving collectors’ society in the USA.
The colorful new Majolica lead glazes, combined with boldly modeled shapes, were very popular for interior decoration in the late 19th century. Classical and naturalistic motifs adorned vases and table centers for fruit and flowers. Clocks, candlesticks, lamp fittings and wall brackets, were produced to furnish Victorian parlors. For dining, there were majolica cheese bells, sardine boxes, bread trays and plates. On a larger scale, playing fountains, jardinières, statuary and seats were made for conservatories and garden rooms.