Why We Marvel At Majolica
Majolica is a magical little genre of mispronounced collectible that has been around for centuries. Learning about it and starting your own collection is relatively simple. But what exactly is it? What is it worth? And why should we appreciate antique and period Majolica over lackluster contemporary ceramics under the unsavory guise of Majolica.
Majolica is tin glazed pottery decorated in metallic oxides to an unfired glaze creating a vibrant palette of brilliant colors. Originating in Europe, and dispersed through centuries-old Moorish trade routes tethering Spain to Italy, the artform evolved from Medieval lead glaze wares. Most of Majolica we see and refer to today is of the Victorian era when English makers became obsessed with the art due to the 1851 Great Exposition in London where the new simplified process wares also deemed Majolica were quite celebrated. Renowned manufacturers including Minton, Wedgwood, and George Jones all raced to create forms for a hungry market. But the question still beckons, how can one know the difference?
As with most circumstances in life, experience is crucial to understanding. Visiting museums, local galleries, antique shops, or finding collectors online so that one may view and literally handle the objects is key. In the arts world we are so hyper obsessed with visuals, but touch is one of the most important factors in determining quality. The first thing any amateur observer will note in dealing with period vs. Victorian era vs. modern reproduction ceramics is the that the newer works are almost undoubtedly extremely inferior. Whether judging the color, crispness of the molded forms, weight, precision in paint application, the inevitably of an “ahhhh” factor should occur. Understanding the aesthetics, trends, and techniques of design periods will assist with identification. Eventually, after viewing and understanding multiple pieces, the ease of examination will accelerate, and identification can become second nature.
Value is at times conjecture but of course there are specific market trends that elevate or demote the desirability of any object; the same may be said of Majolica. Condition, rarity, form, and provenance will all play a major role in what you will have to spend to acquire that special piece. Trusted and knowledgeable resources like Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers are also helpful in ascertaining value. Not to be forgotten is that timing matters and after seeing a major revitalization of collectability in the 1990’s, prices in the contemporary market have softened making it the perfect time to start or bolster a collection