Designer / Maker
Designed by Léon Arnoux (1816-1902)
Manufactured by Charles Toft (circa 1828-90),
for Minton & Co. (1796-1968)
Earthenware, with inlaid and painted decoration
Height: 28 cm
English (Stoke-on-Trent), 1870s
‘Minton & Co’ and ‘C. Toft’ under base (see right)
John Scott Collection
‘The John Scott Collection ‘Modern English’ Design from the 1860s and 1870s’, London, 2014, no. 1
The enigmatic French Renaissance ceramics known as ‘Saint-Porchaire’ ware remain, despite much recent research, a source of great debate and mystery. For good reason this production has been described as the ‘sphinx de la curiosité’. The fantastic salts, tazzas, candlesticks, ewers and other objects had great appeal to nineteenth-century scholars and collectors. The critical publication for the dissemination of knowledge about this material is Henri Delange and Carle Delange, Receuil de toutes les pièces connues jusqu’à ce jour de la faïence française dite Henri II et Diane de Poitiers, Paris, 1861.
Under the direction of the firm’s chief designer, Léon Arnoux, Minton began to replicate Sainte-Porchaire, known as ‘Henri II ware’, from as early as 1858. Both the firm’s owner Colin Minton Campbell (1827-85) and Arnoux were subscribers to the Delange volume, which was clearly a valuable source. From the late 1860s, Toft (about whom little is known) took over the production of Henri II ware, and appears to have done little else over the next fifteen years; he left Minton in 1882. These neo-Renaissance creations were shown to critical acclaim, including at the London International Exhibition (1871), the Vienna Weltausstellung (1873) and the Paris Exposition Universelle (1878).
The present ewer (called in French a biberon), takes elements from two well-known sixteenth-century examples, both now in the collection of the Petit Palais, Paris (see Daphne Barbour and Shelley Sturman, eds, Saint-Porchaire Ceramics, Washington, 1996, nos 26 & 27. No. 26 was in the famous collection of Andrew Fountaine at Narford Hall by 1861, sold by Christie’s, from 16 June 1884, lot 298, illustrated with a tipped-in photograph; no. 27 was in the equally celebrated Fréderic Spitzer collection by 1881.
An identical Toft/Minton ewer is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (Circ. 825-1920); see Simon Jervis, High Victorian Design, Ottawa, 1974, p. 36, no. 9.
Further examples are at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent. We are grateful to Lindsay Millington for drawing our attention to these two ewers.