Magnificent Majolica: Worth Their Salt

“Magnificent Majolica” is a bimonthly series where we focus on the opulence and exuberance of the Archive’s majolica designs. Every other month we’ll highlight one or more artworks from our special Art & Design folio as detailed images, galleries, or interactive comparisons. If you’d like to find out more about majolica and why it is synonymous with Minton you can do so through our In Depth introduction to the series.

Until the introduction of “free-flowing” salt in the early 20th century, which facilitated the widespread adoption of salt shakers, it was from a salt cellar that salt was traditionally dispensed. Whilst the Industrial Revolution helped make both salt and salt cellars commonplace in the home historically salt would have often been presented at the table in highly decorative “master” or “standing” cellars, conveying the status of the owner to their guests. The two extravagant “salières” drawn below are most likely copied from examples of Renaissance period maiolica collected, as the annotation alludes, by Alexandre-Charles Sauvageot and donated to the Louvre Museum.

Some of the artworks in the Majolica Box carry a unique reference which can be checked against the entries of the 1871 Art Catalogue; the short description for the design shown below – reference “G.22” – reads:

Water Colour Drawing, Majolica, copy of a square salt. Mr Campbell’s.

However, thanks to a chance encounter during our search for images of the two salières above we now know that the design is copied from this maiolica piece, currently housed in the Petit Palais and part of the Museums of the City of Paris collection. There the cellar is described as having:

[…] grotesque decoration on white background and winged female figures with lioness heads supporting shells at angles […] decoration “in Raphaelesque style”.

View the source artworks for the highlights above