Annual Lecture April 17, Focus Is on Trenton’s Victorian Majolica Makers

Mayer majolica vase

The Potteries of Trenton Society is pleased to partner with the New Jersey State Museum to present our annual ceramics history lecture. Dr. Laura Microulis, Research Curator at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City, will discuss Trenton’s Majolica Mania for the meeting to be held on Saturday, April 17, beginning at 1:30 PM. The lecture will be an on line webinar and is free and open to the public, but reservations are required.

Colorful and wildly imaginative, the lead-glazed earthenware known as majolica was one of the most significant innovations in nineteenth-century ceramics. Largely inspired by Renaissance maiolica, majolica proved to be the quintessential modern medium—a material that could be mass-produced into myriad shapes and styles for both functional and ornamental purposes. Introduced in 1851 by the renowned English firm, Minton & Co., and subsequently made by dozens of other Staffordshire factories, the eccentric designs, boldly molded forms, and richly colored glazes of majolica captured the attention of consumers on both sides of the Atlantic—the potteries of Trenton, New Jersey, responded accordingly.

Microulis will explore Trenton’s role in the mania for majolica from the American pottery displays at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876 to the financial demise of the last majolica factory in Trenton in 1897. She will demonstrate the importance of immigrant craftsmen, as well as how new foods and fashions for the table, Aesthetic movement principles, and the widespread interest in botany impacted the design and decoration of the ware. 

Microulis, a material culture scholar with a specialization in nineteenth-century decorative arts and design, has been part of the curatorial team behind the forthcoming exhibition and publication, Majolica Mania: Transatlantic Pottery in England and the United States, 1850–1915, which will be on view at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City from September 24, 2021 through January 3, 2022. The exhibition then moves to the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, on February 26–July 31, 2022.  Majolica Mania is the first major public display of this material in nearly four decades. Featuring over 350 objects, from domestic vessels to monumental pieces shown at the World’s Fairs, the exhibition and accompanying three-volume catalog consider the principal designers and manufacturers of the ware, its broad dissemination, and ultimate decline within the social and cultural context of the Victorian era.

The Potteries of Trenton Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the study and appreciation of Trenton’s ceramic industry by gathering and preserving information related to the industry, sponsoring research projects, seminars and conferences, and promoting industry-related heritage tourism activities. Membership is open to all and information about joining will be available at this event.

The New Jersey State Museum is a center of cultural, educational, and scientific engagement, and inspires innovation and lifelong learning through collections, research, exhibitions and programs in science, history and art.

Arrangements for this virtual event are still underway; sign up for our email list to receive notification when registration opens.