Majolica is a richly colored, heavyweight clay pottery that is coated with enamel, ornamented with paints, and glazed. The first pieces were made on the Spanish island of Majorca and exported to Italy in trading vessels. The Italians called it "Maiolica," which in modern terms has become "Majolica."
Natural patterns such as leaves, fish, and trees dominate Majolica pottery design. Browns, greens, and blues are characteristic of the style. The pieces are painted when the enamel is not yet dry, which requires a delicate touch to prevent the colors from running. The finished piece is covered with a transparent glaze and fired.
Majolica is not only painted to resemble nature, it is often shaped in a relief texture that brings these pieces to life. Plates are shaped like leaves, birds perch at the edge of compotes, and vines masquerade themselves as pitcher handles. Majolica is whimsical and unique.
American Majolica appeared in the 1880s, when at least 10 different factories were producing it. Over the years, many different companies have produced Majolica. The name refers to the type of pottery, not a specific manufacturer or geographic region.
Roseville pottery shares some characteristics with Majolica, but usually uses a softer color palette. Nature is still a predominant design theme, particularly plants, animals, and birds.
The Roseville Pottery Company was established in 1892 by George F. Young in Roseville, OH. In 1898, the company moved to new, larger facilities in Zanesville, OH. With rich clay deposits, the area was well suited for a pottery. Early pieces were made under the name "Rozane" or "Rozane Ware," and utilized glossy browns and blues that are not consistent with later Roseville pieces. These early works looked more like Roseville's competitor Rookwood.
A more distinctive style began to develop in the early 1920s with a new line called Rosecraft. In 1926, George Young's son Russell took over operations and created what is known as Roseville pottery or "middle period" Roseville. The pattern 1931 Sienna or blue Pinecone was the first to have the Roseville signature impressed into the bottom of each piece. Popular patterns during this period included Thorn Apple, White Rose, Zephyr Lily, Snowberry, and Peony. Floral patterns are particularly collectible today.
Next week we will explore early china, including Gaudy Dutch, Adams, Victorian Chelsea, and Spatterware.