It’s All In the Marks: 19th-Century Majolica Pitcher

This majolica pitcher comes from Choisy-le-Roi, France.

To well-seasoned or novice collectors, determining a maker or origin of a piece can be very confusing if it is outside their normal area of interest. Any markings that can be found can often help unravel the mystery—if you know what the marks mean.

If you don’t, however, they can lead you well astray of the truth. In this series of Q & A articles, I’m going to answer the questions I hear most often regarding marks on antiques and provide a straight path off an often-twisted trail. Here’s one:

Dane B. writes:

“I’ve had this pitcher for years, and it has sat in our china cabinet since we bought it at a now-defunct flea market. I recall we didn’t pay much for it, but now that we are downsizing to an apartment we’ve been looking at what we want to keep and what to sell. We’d like to find out what you can tell us about this piece, some history about it and if it’s worth keeping.”

This is a nice example of late 19th-century majolica. Majolica is a form of brightly colored tin-glazed earthenware that can trace its roots all the way back to ancient Persia, but its modern roots begin in 1851 when it was exhibited by Herbert Minton of Minton & Co. at the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace, London.

The popularity of this type of pottery was so great that other European makers were forced to begin production of their own lines to compete for customers.

By the end of the 19th century, it would have been difficult to find a home without a couple examples of majolica on display. The demand for majolica lasted until the early years of the 20th century.

The marking on this one is that of the Faience factory of Choisy-le-Roi, France, which produced majolica from 1860 until 1910. This mark was used post 1890.

Marks on this majolica pitcher show the country of origin, France, and its manufacturer, Faience.

Faience wares are not always marked, which can cause these pieces to be attributed to other makers. The most common marking was stamped in black as “Choisy-le-Roi” with the large “B.” The “HB” marking stands for “Hippolyte Boulenger,” a director of the pottery.

Country of origin marks such as “France” are often a result of trade tariff laws such as the McKinley Act of 1890. This act required any item made for export to the United States be marked with its country of origin. The American market being the largest one in the world at the time, European manufacturers were very quick to comply. Full country of origin marks such as “Made in France” generally appear by the early 1920s.

Faience, like many of the period, produced a large variety of majolica items from decorative plates to large outdoor conservatory stools. Values for their wares varies by the type of item, size and condition.

This pitcher is in the Art Nouveau style, which was very poplar in the 1890s, peaking in popularity about 1900. This pitcher is in good condition and even though the market for pieces like this has softened in recent years in at auction would still sell in the $200 to $300 range.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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