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Jolly majolica monk raises a smile; Bargain Hunter DON RODGERS.

THIS little majolica monk has been a favourite of mine ever since I bought him at one of the big antique fairs held in the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells.

Majolica is a rather imprecise term that can cause some confusion.

The original maiolica was a tin-glazed earthenware produced in Italy during the Renaissance.

Minton began producing their version of tin-glazed pottery in the 19th century, renaming it majolica ware.

For the Great Exhibition of 1851 they created a related style of pottery which used transparent lead glazes instead of opaque tin glazes and which they named Palissy ware.

Both styles of earthenware used bright colours on naturalistically moulded surfaces and, as a result, it wasn't long before they became confused under the general name of majolica, with the term Palissy ware nowadays being kept for earthenwares encrusted with realistic snakes, lizards and crustaceans.

Majolica, in the sense of a soft-bodied moulded earthenware produced mainly in the second half of the 19th century and decorated with bright lead or tin glazes, has a large number of devotees, particularly in the United States.

The most valuable pieces are those from a named maker such as Minton, Wedgwood or George Jones, with rare colourful pieces in naturalistic shapes still selling for hundreds of pounds.

This monk holding a pail is made from a soft earthenware covered in clear lead glazes, this shade of pink being particularly popular on majolica. It was probably made on the continent and is a common but strongly characterised example, with his amusingly wicked facial expression.

The whole figure has been well moulded - the potter has even suggested the outline of legs and knees under the robes, as well as paying attention to details such as teeth and finger nails.

Its most likely use was as a match holder - some similar figures have a rough unglazed area for striking the matches on; but given his clearly delineated teeth, he would also be quite suitable as a tooth-pick holder.

The dealer who sold the monk to me clearly didn't think much of him, as he only cost pounds 2.50. There is some damage in the form of chips - majolica is particularly susceptible to this - which will certainly reduce his value to around pounds 20-pounds 30.

However, to me his real value lies in the fact that he makes me smile every time I look at him.


IN THE HABIT: This majolica monk may have been used as a match holder
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 4, 2009
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