This tureen was made for serving soups and stews at a lavishly set table. It is one of the most spectacular examples of richly coloured 'majolica ware' made by the English company Mintons in the late 1800s.
It is unknown how many of these striking objects were made by Mintons (1) and surviving examples are very rare. Mintons' archival photographs of an unpainted set (covered dish and serving platter) refer to this design as a pie dish, and the marks on the base, which include a Registered Design Mark, reveal that it was patented in 1877, probably as part of the firm's Game Pie Dishes range. The Museum's example, having been sumptuously painted with bold majolica glazes, would have been intended instead as a tureen for serving soups and stews at the table. Made in 1878, the Powerhouse tureen is a replica of a Chelsea design in soft paste porcelain of which three complete examples (with serving platters) are still in existence.
Established in 1796 by Herbert Minton, Mintons' most popular product in the second part of the 1800s was 'majolica ware', a type of earthenware body painted with brightly coloured aniline glazes developed by the firm's Art Director LÃ©on Arnoux in the late 1840s and first shown at London's Great Exhibition of 1851. Majolica glazes, which could be painted directly on the unfired body, were often combined with strong sculptural details and soon gained an international reputation and following. Mintons' majolica designers drew on a wealth of earlier styles for their designs. While the shapes of the tureen and stand are almost identical with the Chelsea original, the colours, especially on the platter, are very different - the Chelsea platters had white or pink backgrounds resembling a hunter's quilted silk coat, while the Minton version is painted in dark green, a favourite colour used on majolica ware at the time.
(1) The Minton company was known as 'Mintons' between 1873 and 1950.
Eva Czernis-Ryl, 2007