Here are some selections from the Marion E. Byrd Majolica Collection, currently on exhibit at the Forsyth Center Galleries until November 3rd, 2012. The Majolica (muh-jol-i-kuh) pottery presented in our exhibition dates to the 19th Century and was mainly produced in England during the reign of Queen Victoria. It was originally conceived as an imitation of Maiolica pottery produced during the Italian Renaissance and imitates its bright colors and playful style. However, Victorian Majolica pottery also features molded surfaces, a greater range of subject matter (including animal, floral, or whimsical scenes from fairy tales), and food vessels shaped like the food they were meant to hold.
Majolica pottery burst onto the scene in the 1850s and became instantly popular, especially with the growing British middle class created by the Industrial Revolution, as it could by manufactured cheaply and sold at a lower price. A large number of pottery companies responded to the increased demand for Majolica. Along with Mintons, Wedgewood, Trent, Royal Worcester, and many others produced Majolica.
Around the time of Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 the market had been so flooded by Majolica pottery that production waned sharply and was quickly superseded by the Art Nouveau movement. The Byrd Collection is a recent acquisition for our Gallery and displays the range of colors, forms, and subjects that Victorian Majolica pottery presented throughout its production history.