- Museum number
Large pierced majolica earthenware tile, dust-pressed buff body, decorated with coloured glazes in yellow, pale and dark blue, pink and white. The moulded design features a quatrefoil with stylised foliage. No backstamp.
- Production date
Length: 224 millimetres
Width: 221 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- This tile was made by Minton & Co., probably for the ceramic stove at the Great Exhibition of 1851. The stove was the centrepiece of the Medieval Court entirely designed by Pugin. Majolica tiles of five different designs made up the stove, which measured 10 feet high by 5 feet wide. The entire structure was surrounded by metalwork made by another of Pugin's favourite manufacturers, Hardman & Co. of Birmingham. The tiles placed at the top of the stove were pierced to allow heat to escape; therefore, this example would have been near the top. For illustrations of the Great Exhibition stove, see Jones 1993, p. 170 and Atterbury and Wainwright 1994, p. 240, no. 466 and p. 245, no. 455.
It is not known exactly what happened to the stove after the Exhibition and the existence of single tiles (circulating the art market, etc.) implies that it must have been dismantled. However, Alexandra Wedgwood notes that the heraldry seen on the grill in contemporary illustrations is that of Pugin's greatest patron, the Earl of Shrewsbury, indicating that it was either destined for or on loan from Alton Towers, see Atterbury and Wainwright 1994, p. 244. It is possible that the stove was never purchased by the Earl of Shrewsbury.
Matters are further complicated by the possible existence of one or even two other stoves, suggested by ambiguous annotations on the drawings in the Minton Archive and further Pugin drawings for Hardman (in the Birmingham Art Gallery), showing three separate stove designs.
The original designs for four of the tiles used in the 1851 stove are in the Minton archive on two separate sheets, each containing two designs. The sheet with the design for this tile is signed 'AW Pugin' but is undated. It is also annotated, in Pugin's hand: 'Tiles for Stove no. 2 / Perforated tiles for No. 2'. In the perforated areas of the drawing, it is annotated, 'just open'. The other sheet is signed and dated 1850; it is annotated, in Pugin's hand: 'Tiles for stove No. 1'. For the original design of this tile, see Jones 1993, p. 179; Atterbury and Wainwright 1994, p. 149, no. 275; and Atterbury 1995, p. 383, no. 138.
Another sheet bears an apparently unexecuted fifth design with a large tudor rose, but this differs from the fifth design just visible in the contemporary 1851 illustration in M. Digby Wyatt, 'The Industrial Arts of the XIX Century from the Great Exhibition of 1851' (1853), fig. 450, pl. 106. It is signed and dated 1850 and is again annotated, in Pugin's hand: 'Tiles for stove No. 1'.
These five original designs are in the typical Pugin colours, i.e. yellow, bright green, cerise, dark/mid blue, quite different to those found on all the known existing tiles which have majolica glazes in pastel shades, comparable to fifteenth-century della Robbia colours. The colours used in the watercolour design for the BM tile are not like those actually found on the tile but comprise yellow, mint green, cerise (where ours is dark blue) and dark/mid blue. The design shows two alternate colourways but not the turquoise and pink colourway of the BM tile.
Possibly as many as three stoves were made and perhaps all were dismantled; until further evidence comes to light it can be assumed that this tile is from the 1851 Exhibition stove.
The stove tiles are the only recorded designs by Pugin for Majolica tiles. It is known that he owned many examples of Renaissance majolica, including a piece by Palissy, which he may have drawn upon for inspiration. However, the pale colours of the glazes owe much to della Robbia wares, which Pugin did not own. A contemporary description of the stove in 'Dickinson's Comprehensive Pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851' Vol. II (1854) describes the tiles as 'enamelled in the style of Lucca della Robbia'.
For the designs for other stove tiles, see Jones 1993, p. 170. For an example of another stove tile, see Jones 1993, p. 169. See also Hans Van Lemmen, TACS Glazed Expressions, Nos. 7 & 8, Summer & Autumn 1984.
- On display (G47/dc10)
- Associated events
- Associated Event: Great Exhibition 1851
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number