The Interconnectedness of All Things

No sooner had we clicked “publish” on our Christmas-themed blog post than one of our colleagues from The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery discovered a pair of particularly festive sketches in one of the Minton company’s Ornaments books… talk about unfortunate timing! Luckily, the chance discovery of a couple of illustrations – festive or otherwise – is sometimes all it takes to begin a journey through the records of the Minton Archive.

After admiring the appropriately-named “Holly Dish” and “Christmas Dish” designs we checked the catalogue entry for SD 1705/MS1591 and discovered that this Ornaments book also contains a number of illustrations for items shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851. In fact, designs 603, 604, 605 and 613 are all part of the dessert service purchased by Queen Victoria at the exhibition preview and referenced in…

a letter from Colin Minton Campbell to his mother. Containing much about the Great Exhibition and written just a few weeks after the official opening, it includes a description of the moment Queen Victoria presented Herbert Minton to the Princess of Prussia as “the manufacturer of that beautiful dessert service”. Campbell also writes that Minton’s “grand effort” at the exhibition had been “amply rewarded by the knowledge that we decidedly stand the very first in England, some also add in the world”, a point underlined by…

… the awarding of the Council Medal to “Messrs. H. Minton & Co. for their application and beauty of design shewn in the Exhibition”, the certificate to which we pieced back together to display here on the site. The Great Exhibition was the first of a series of international exhibitions, the next held in Paris in 1855 before returning to London in 1862. At the International Exhibition of 1862 a team of stereoscopic photographers produced a large number of stereo views for the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company, including…

a stereo view entitled “Majolica Work, by Minton & Co.”. Dominating the centre of this stereograph is a large majolica fountain, the hand-coloured design for which we were lucky enough to be able to find within the folios of the catalogue’s “Art & Design” section. Unfortunately the sheer size of the design means it’s not possible to digitise it just yet, but our journey doesn’t stop here. The same folio box also contains the artwork for a particularly important majolica piece, with an inscription on the design which reads…

… “This is the first design for Majolica that was made and was also executed on the Majolica dish painted and made at Minton’s Manufactory”.

kirkby-majolica-design

The design – and the subsequent painting of the piece – was said to have been done by Minton artist and designer Thomas Kirkby, who’s “perfect” majolica reproductions and other works were often purchased by Queen Victoria and other members of the Royal Family. However, Kirkby’s contribution to the Minton Archive is not just as an artist – he was also responsible for…

a small, hand-written book entitled “Recollections of H. Minton, Esq”. In it, Kirkby refers to the early days of the company – Poulson; Thomas Minton’s marriage to Miss Webb; the china made at the original Minton manufactory – as well as the habits, mannerisms and anecdotes surrounding Herbert Minton himself. Kirkby also mentions his own work on the Queen’s Plate, which was exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1855. This loops us back towards the grand exhibitions of the 19th century and, though we’ll end our particular journey here, such is the nature of the material available in the Archive that we could keep on making these connections.

Why not start your own journey through the Minton Archive, or even continue ours for us – if you get stuck, here’s a connection to the Paris Exposition mentioned above to get you started…