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What's in Store: Ceramics

Hibernia awakening from her slumbers, Parian porcelain, Belleek, 1872, designed by William Boyton Kirk, Dublin

Visitors to the What's In Store? gallery can explore Museum collections normally kept in storage. Read more on the fine china, delft and other pottery, both from international sources as well as important Irish producers, which are featured in this gallery.

Frederick Vodrey, Italian maiolica, Spanish maiolica, Islamic pottery, French faience, Dutch delft

Frederick Vodrey operated a Dublin pottery from the years, c.1882 to 1897, with addresses on Henry Street, Mary Street and Moore Street. This last location appears to have been the main warehouse with pottery works. Although not a trained potter himself, his employees set about designing pieces, which embodied either Celtic, Arabic, Classical or Art Nouveau influences. Indeed, in some instances, efforts to attain antimony yellow and ruby red glazes as found on Far Eastern ceramics were successfully achieved.

The term ‘maiolica’ is applied to lustre wares of Valencia, Spain that reached Italy via the Balearic Island Majorca (hence ‘maiolica’ or ‘maiorica’). However, the term has also been applied to differentiate all tin-glazed ware of any nationality produced using the traditional Italian polychrome colours of blue, green, manganese-purple, yellow and orange. The ceramic referred to as ‘faience’ is applied to later material from the 17th Century onwards, either produced in the earlier colour scheme or more usually in the Dutch-Chinese (delft) style. The Italian maiolica in the collection dates from the 16th to 19th Centuries and consists of such important manufactories as Monte Lupo, Castel Durante, Urbino, Faenza, Venice, Genoa, Castelli, Cantagalli, Castellani of Rome and L’arte della Ceramica of Florence. Also included in this row is the distinctive tin-glazed terracotta produced by the famous Florentine, Della Robbia outlet.

Hispano-Moresque ware is decorated with designs in a metallic lustre. These designs are of Middle Eastern inspiration, first being brought to Spain by the Arabs. Decoration generally consists of foliage and flowers, sometimes accompanied by coats of arms. The majority of the collection dates to the 16th Century. The Islamic pottery on show is mostly of Turkish and Persian Empire origin (circa 17th Century). The latter is renowned for its exquisite monochrome glazes, whereas the Turkish Isnik ware from the late 16th Century is noted for its surface decoration of polychrome foliage.

The manufactories of Rouen, Moustiers and Lyons are amongst those associated with the Museum’s collection of French faience. Examples range in date from the 17th Century. The Dutch delft collection is particularly important in an Irish context, as its imitation of the Chinese decorative repertoire would later be repeated during the 18th Century on this island. Initially Dutch delftware was influenced by the large quantity of Chinese porcelain brought to Europe by the Dutch East India Company (founded in 1609).

For comparative purposes tiles from Islamic lands, Spain, Italy and Holland are shown together in order to illustrate the various forms of tin-glazed earthenware.

Della Robbia: Birkenhead, Belleek, Irish delftware, Queen’s Institute, Carrigaline, Contemporary

The Della Robbia pottery, Birkenhead, England, operated between the years 1893 and 1906. Influences on the Della Robbia style came from Islamic ceramics and Italian maiolica by Cantagalli. The objects on show exhibit neo-Celtic design, and were produced for the Cork Exhibition of 1902.

The production of Belleek began in 1863, after W.H. Kerr and Robert Williams Armstrong approached David McBirney of Hibernian House, Aston Quay, Dublin to finance the venture. At the Dublin International Exhibition of 1865, Belleek displayed mainly stoneware and tableware, but also parian statuary and earthenware. During the initial stages, links with Staffordshire potteries and Worcester are evident in design.

Irish delftware is synonymous with Henry Delamain, who took over the World’s End Pottery, Frenchman’s Lane, Dublin, in 1752. He produced objects such as wall-fountains, dinner services and apothecary jars. Amongst his most famous employees at the pottery was the mid 18th-Century landscape painter Peter Shee. The demise of the manufactory appears to have occurred around 1773.

‘The Queen’s Institute for the Training and Employment of Educated Women’, Painting on Porcelain School was founded in 1870, and was based at Molesworth Street, Dublin. The impetus to establish the enterprise came from W.H. Kerr (of Belleek and Worcester fame). In 1869 Kerr invited Herbert Cooper to manage the school. Painted designs by Cooper and the women of the Institute generally consist of floral and fruit motifs.

A small selection from the Museum’s Carrigaline Pottery (1928 - 1979) collection from Co. Cork brings the story of Irish ceramics up to the 20th Century. Founded by H.W.B. (Hodder) Roberts in 1928, initial art direction came from the Stoke-on-Trent potter Louis T. Keeling. Carrigaline pottery is characterised by distinctive mottled glazes and ornamental ware of animal and bird figures.

In recent years contemporary ceramic art has developed in Ireland, a pioneer of which was the sculptor Kathleen Cox (1904 - 1972). As for the late 20th Century and today, Ireland can boast active makers that include Cormac Boydell, Peter Brennan, Pat Connor, Sara Flynn, Vivienne Foley, John French, Grattan Freyer, Geoffrey Healy, Maureen Hosty, Michael Kennedy, Sonja Landweer, Deirdre McLoughlin, Nicholas Mosse, Louis Mulcahy, Patrick O’Hara, Stephen Pearce and Martin Thompson.

Japanese porcelain, Chinese porcelain, Wedgwood, German stoneware

The three principal porcelain wares associated with Japan are Arita, Imari and Satsuma, the last being the most renowned. Prince Yoshihiro established the initial Satsuma factory in the late 16th Century with the aid of several Korean potters. Later ware (of the 19th Century) exhibits heavy gilding and lavish colour. Most of the Satsuma-style porcelain on show was produced in the Kutani factories.

A small selection from the Museum’s Chinese porcelain collection is represented. Numerically, Chinese pottery and porcelain is the largest subset of the Museum’s ceramics collection, containing not only the unique Fonthill Vase (c. 1300 AD), but material from the Han (206 BC - 220 AD), Tang (618 - 907 AD), Song (960 - 1279 AD), Yuan (1280 - 1368 AD), Ming (1368 - 1644 AD) and Qing (1644 - 1911 AD) Dynasties. The majority of porcelain on show is of a type referred to as ‘blanc-de-chine’, a term used to describe highly translucent porcelain made in Fujian province from the early 17th Century to the present.

The most important Wedgwood pottery came to this institution from the Museum of Irish Industry (established in 1847) during the late 19th Century. Founded in 1759 by Josiah Wedgwood, two main categories, that of jasper and basalt, were invented by the enterprising genius himself. Such was the market for Wedgwood in Ireland that the company opened a retail outlet in Dublin between 1772 and 1777.

The German and Flemish stoneware collection dates from the 16th Century and represents among others, the regional manufacturing centres of Frecken, Siegburg, Nassau and Grenzhausen. Surface decoration mainly consists of low relief arabesques, masks and coats of arms.

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