Lustre Ware Part 1

4* THERE is scarcely a china collector aaIio does not number among his or her possessions at least one piece of lustre, which ware forms a group of its own in English pottery. All lustre ware may be divided into three classes — copper, silver, and gold — the first being the most com mon, least valuable, and least interesting. The process of making this ware was simple enough, consisting in dissolving the metals employed by chemicals and form ing a solution which could either be applied by dipping or with a brush.

Who first invented, or rather applied, this method of metallic coating to English pottery is not known. Admirers of Wedgwood claim that he first used gold as early as 1776 for lustring picture frames. Other authorities give the merit of the discovery to John Hancock while employed by Spode, to whom he was apprenticed in 1769. Still others credit the firm of Gardiner & Stennys with the introduction of lustred pottery. Be this as it may, by 1770 R. Frank was making copper lustre ware at Brislington, near Bristol, England.

Wilson, in Staffordshire, was making it in 1785. Lustre ware of all three varieties was made at the Market Street Works, Longton, and was frequently marked with a B" " impressed in the body. The works were in operation at the same time that Wedgwood was working at Etruria, and the firm was originally Cyples, then became Cyples & Barlow, and then was conducted by Thomas Barlow alone.

Moore & Co. and Dixon & Co. were both at work in Sunderland by 1820, and produced much handsome ware. Lustre was also made at Leeds before 1800, in Preston Pans, at Dillwyn, where the famous Swansea gold and silver lustre was manufactured, and at many other pot works all Over England.

The body of lustre ware is generally earthen, of a reddish colour and coarse texture, which sometimes de tracts from the elegance of the shape of the vessel, though when copper lustre was at its best, about 1801, there was little criticism to be passed upon either its colour or the shapes it covered.

Some of the best examples of copper lustre approach & more nearly to those elegant Hispano-Mauro specimens of the fifteenth century than any of the other varieties, and has a depth of colour that forcibly reminds one of the splendid old Italian ware. Since an article on lustre was published by me some years ago, I have received a number of letters from Owners of pieces, written in a most earnest spirit. One declared that the so-called "silver lustre " was but a mock, and that he possessed specimens of the true silver lustre which was on glass, and another, a lady this time, gravely informs me that she Owns a mug of copper lustre which came over in the Mayflower! When I suggested that perhaps she had dated her mug a little too far back, she replied that she had been told that in 1805 the mug was considered very, very old, that family tradition was enough for her, and that declared the Mayflower as being the carrier which brought her piece to this country. If only Italian lustre was made as early, why then her mug was Italian. By the way, this mug, which is described as light as aluminum, has survived all these years without so much ) as a chip! She speaks with some scorn of two marked pickle dishes by Wedgwood which belonged to her husband's family, but pins all her faith to this piece of copper lustre, and nothing will shake her. Family tradition is a power that cannot be gauged till you run counter to it in dating specimens.

In the choicer porcelains and higher class wares it is possible to find characteristics by which they can be distinguished. It is not so in the more common or peasant productions. Highly coloured and more or less crude wares which we quickly assign to England may have been made in Sweden, Denmark, or Belgium, or may even be traced as far south as Italy. Many pieces of lustre are also made in Germany and look so much like the English wares that they deceive all but the most expert. One seldom takes into account that potters travelled from one country to another with the methods which they had learned, and were able to produce in Denmark examples of pottery exactly like those which they had made in Staffordshire.

It is only necessary to trace the movements of a famous man like Billingsley, who was noted for the roses which he painted on china, and which during fifty years appeared on many celebrated English wares as he went from one factory to another. As with him so with less renowned potters, so that with unmarked pieces it is almost impossible to assign the place of manufacture.

In an article on " Historic Pitchers," published in 19 2, I showed the " Cornwallis jug," which is the most valuable piece of copper lustre known. Such a jug in perfect condition is worth $45, on account of its his torical association, since in shape, size, and quality of ware it is in no wise superior to hundreds of other copper lustre pitchers. I know of but a scant dozen of these jugs — in speaking of this Cornwallis pitcher

"" the term jug seems more appropriate — and of these two are imperfect, one having a bad crack and the other

"" having lost its foot — that is, the base on which it stands.

I have been criticised for placing the value of these jugs so high, but, for those of large size and perfect it is what the dealers ask. I have inquired in several shops where antiques are sold, and I find that this is the general figure in the large cities. No dealer will give such a sum, and you will do well if you can get half so much, for he too has his profit to make. Next in rarity and beauty come the perfectly plain copper jugs, fine and simple in form, and beautifully lustred inside and out. Some of these of different sizes are shown in Figure 217, and even in the photograph you can see their wonderful lustre. These old specimens have a deep-seated lustre, if it may be so expressed, while the modern reproduc tions are more on the surface, and seem to have a more metallic appearance than the old.

 Fig. 217 Plain Copper Lustre Jugs. Fig. 218 Group of Copper Lustre Jugs. Fig. 219 Copper Lustre Pitchers.

In the Figure 218 are shown seven copper lustre pitchers, embracing all the familiar types, showing the different styles of handles and the ways these were applied, the pitchers having a thumb rest and large pointed lip being the oldest. The best pitcher in this group is the one at the end at the left side, on which are white figures on a copper ground. This pitcher is similar in style to those made by Wedgwood, Wood & Caldwell, and other well-known potters.

The pitchers in Figure 219 show only their good shape and proportion in the photograph, for the broad band of decoration which passes about the upper part of the pitcher just below the handle is a splendid and unusual shade of olive green which does not " take " well.

These pitchers are unusually handsome, the shade of lustre being very deep and rich, and the harmony of that with the green very satisfying. They are of un doubted age, and are now at the Whipple House, Ips- which, Massachusetts, where are gathered so many relics of that interesting old town. The pitchers belonged to Aaron Jewett, janitor of the Old Court House from 1820 to 1850, and were used as water pitchers by the judges of the court during that time.

T do not doubt that this temperance beverage was an unfamiliar invader of these hospitable jugs until they came to do legal duty, for the usual liquid which poured from their generous lips was cider. It was not only to pewter vessels that the terms " gallonier, pottle pot, pot

 Fig. 220 Silver Lustre Jug. Fig. 221 Teapots, Silver Lustre.

" and little pot were applied, but to pitchers which held respectively one gallon, two quarts, one quart, and one pint. The idea of temperance seems to have been one of the last to enter the minds of our forefathers on either side of the water.

These larger-sized pitchers were made for cider or beer, or some of the numerous decoctions which are compounded of these ingredients and several others, and then heated with a loggerhead.

BoaaIs, tea-sets, pepper pots, mugs, goblets, and very rarely coffee pots are found in copper lustre, a very handsome specimen of the latter being similar to the helmet-shaped teapot in another illustration (Figure 224).

 Fig. 224 Teapots, Silver Lustre. Fig. 225 Cup, Saucer, and Candlestick.

Table of contents

Source

The Collector's Manual by N. Hudson Moore, Amy Richards. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1906.

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