Vase in lead-glazed Victorian majolica, mintos by Carrier-Belleuse, 1868. Mintons was a major company in Staffordshire pottery, «Europe’s leading ceramic factory during the Victorian era», an independent business from 1793 to 1968.
The family continued to control the business until the mid-20th century. Mintons had the usual Staffordshire variety of company and trading names over the years, and the products of all periods are generally referred to as either «Minton», as in «Minton china», or «Mintons», the mark used on many. Mintons Ltd was the company name from 1879 onwards. Stoke-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, England as «Thomas Minton and Sons», producing earthenware. Early Mintons products were mostly standard domestic tableware in blue transfer-printed or painted earthenware, including the ever-popular Willow pattern. Minton had trained as an engraver for transfer printing with Thomas Turner. Minton was a prime mover, and the main shareholder in the Hendra Company, formed in 1800 to exploit china clay and other minerals from Cornwall.
Early Mintons porcelain was «decorated in the restrained Regency style», much of it just with edging patterns rather than fully painted scenes, thus keeping prices within the reach of a relatively large section of the middle class. Creamer, fluted Old Oval shape, c. Teapot and stand, New Oval shape, c. Teapot and stand, London shape, c. Minton’s two sons, Thomas and Herbert, were taken into partnership in 1817, but Thomas went in to the church and was ordained in 1825. Herbert had been working in the business since 1808, when he was 16, initially as a travelling salesman. Group of 5 Pugin tiles for the new St George’s Cathedral, Southwark, 1847-48, with German bomb damage.
Company, which was at the forefront of a large newly developing market as suppliers of durable decorative finishes for walls and floors in churches, public buildings, grand palaces and simple domestic houses. Hard white unglazed «statuary porcelain», later called Parian ware due to its resemblance to Parian marble, was first introduced by Spode in the 1840s. It was further developed by Minton who employed John Bell, Hiram Powers and other famous sculptors to produce figures for reproduction. The ‘Well Spring’ Vase, an early Parian ware design by Richard Redgrave, c. Paper knife, Parian ware and gilt metal, c. In 1849 Minton engaged a young French ceramicist Léon Arnoux as art director who remained with the Minton Company until 1892. This and other enterprising appointments enabled the company greatly to widen its product ranges.
It was Arnoux who formulated the tin-glaze used for Minton’s rare tin-glazed Majolica together with the in-glaze metallic oxide enamels with which it was painted. Mintons made special pieces for the major exhibitions that were a feature of the period, beginning with the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, where they had considerable success, winning the bronze medal for «beauty and originality of design». They followed this with a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle of 1855 in Paris. Platter with Juno, Neptune, Mercury, Selene, circa 1875. Unlike much «Palissy Ware», this is close to actual Renaissance pieces.
Copy in Parian ware of Hiram Powers’ hit sculpture The Greek Slave, 1849. 2 inches high, where the original was life-size. The next twenty-five years saw Mintons develop several new specialities in design and technique, while production of established styles continued unabated. Parian ware, introduced in the 1840s, had become a strong area for Mintons, whose catalogue of 1852 already offered 226 figures in it, priced from an extremely modest two shillings for a dog, to six guineas for a classical figure. In that decade partly-tinted Parian figures were introduced, and part-gilded ones.
Arnoux had an interest in reviving Saint-Porchaire ware, then generally known as «Henri II ware». At some point before 1867 Mintons began to work with Christopher Dresser, often regarded as the most important British designer of the later 19th century. At that time he was beginning what became a strong interest in ceramic design, leading him to work with several other companies. Herbert had decreased his involvement in day-to-day management in the years before his death.
Vase with a bleu celeste ground, modelled after a Sèvres Rococo design, c. 1862, design attributed to Christopher Dresser. Pair of bottles in «Oriental» style, reminiscent of Chinese cloisonné enamel, 1870s, design attributed to Christopher Dresser. Oriental bowl, 1871, Christopher Dresser, with motifs from ancient Chinese ritual bronzes, in a «cloisonné ware» style.
Henri II ware» meets Islamic style in this pot-pourri vase by Charles Toft, 1871. This decoration is painted rather than inlaid. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870 gave Arnoux the opportunity to recruit the modeller Marc-Louis Solon who had developed the technique of pâte-sur-pâte at Sèvres and brought it with him to Minton. Others introduced to Minton by Arnoux included the sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse and the painter Antoine Boullemier. In 1870 Mintons opened an art pottery studio in Kensington, London directed by William Stephen Coleman and encouraged both amateur and professional artists to become involved in pottery decoration and design. This might be in hand-painted plaques, or in producing designs to be replicated in larger quantities in the Stoke factory.