Zimmeth: Colorful jardinieres popular in Victorian era
At the turn of the century, jardinieres could be found in any respectable middle- or upper-class American home. Often colorful and always utilitarian, they fulfilled both of the requirements of English philosopher William Morris, who said: “have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” According to merriam-webster.com, the term, which translates from the French as “female gardener,” was first used in 1841.
The jardiniere that Lynn Anderson brought into the column for more information was both beautiful and useful. “I recently acquired a jardinière pedestal from the estate of a Chicago friend who passed away last year,” she wrote to the column, asking for help finding out about her inherited treasure. “It’s in excellent condition, measuring 26” when both pieces are stacked on top of each other. I have searched books attempting to locate the pattern without luck. It’s in the style of McCoy, but doesn’t match any known patterns of theirs. The only mark is a 307 on the bottom of the jar (nothing is on the pedestal). I would love it if a pottery expert could tell me more about it!”
Bob DuMouchelle of DuMouchelles art gallery and auction house downtown identified her large and colorful “jardinière” as an example of American majolica. Merriam-Webster defines a jardinière as “an ornamental stand for plants or flowers,” or “a large, usually ceramic flower pot,” and defines majolica as “a 19th-century earthenware modeled in naturalistic shapes and glazed in lively colors.” Both descriptions apply to Anderson’s piece, said DuMouchelle.
Majolica was made in England, some parts of Europe and the United States, he told her. Some of the better English marks include Minton, Wedgwood and Royal Worcester; in the U.S., makers included Weller, McCoy and Roseville.
“Antique Trader’s 2014 Price Guide” by Eric Bradley offers an interesting history of the pottery, which he traces to 1851 and potter Herbert Minton, son of Thomas Minton, who had founded a pottery works in the mid-1790s in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.
“Herbert Minton had designed a ‘new’ line of pottery, and his chemist, Leon Arnoux, had developed a process that resulted in vibrant, colorful glazes that came to be called ‘majolica.’ “Victorians, the book continues, were fascinated by the natural world, and many wares featured animals, flowers and leaves, insects, fruit or fish. Queen Victoria later endorsed the pottery, which only reinforced its popularity. It was first seen in the U.S. when Minton introduced it as part of his display at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and before long American potters followed suit, introducing the new colorful pottery to U.S. shores.
DuMouchelle said Anderson’s piece is an example of that American-made pottery.
“It’s very nice quality, but unfortunately I can’t tell you the name of the pattern,” he told her. “There were many, and your #307 mark is probably a pattern number or a manufacturers’ mark, but we don’t really know more than that as there’s no hallmark or maker’s identification.”
He valued her piece at $300, adding said that it would have brought $500-$1,000 only a few years ago. “Today’s market isn’t great for majolica,” he told her. “Things ebb and flow and pottery is down at the moment. Like every market, there are fluctuations.”
Anderson didn’t mind. The piece brings back fond memories of her friend Roy Mackal, a cryptozoologist who she described as “a fascinating man and a dear friend.” While she’s happy to know its value, it was a gift and she has no plans to sell it. “I’m thrilled to have it and have the perfect spot in my living room.”
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About This Item
Item: Majolica jardiniere
Owner: Lynn Anderson, Clinton Township
Appraised by: Bob DuMouchelle, DuMouchelles art gallery and auction house
Estimated value: $300 at auction