REF NO : B56495


A Pair of Mintons Exhibition Polychrome Pâte-sur-pâte Black Ground Porcelain Vases, ‘Venus and Amorini’

England, Circa 1877-78


A Pair of Mintons Exhibition Polychrome Pâte-sur-pâte Black Ground Porcelain Vases, Venus and Amorini’ Recorded as shape no. 1946. Each with Gilt...


Height: 60 cm (24 in)
REF NO : B56495


A Pair of Mintons Exhibition Polychrome Pâte-sur-pâte Black Ground Porcelain Vases, Venus and Amorini’

Recorded as shape no. 1946. Each with Gilt Prince of Wales Feather mark with 1878 Paris Exhibition banner. Each signed ‘L(ouis) Salon’. One vase stamped ‘1722 MINTONS’. The other vase with painted mark ‘2075’ and stamped ‘MINTONS’ with date cypher number for 1877.

Each vase of baluster form with slender trumpet necks flanked by beaded scrolled ribbon handles. Painted in colours recalling Athenian vases of ochre red against a black ground enriched in olive green, orange and pale blues. The body of each with six architectural arches finely painted and hand-tooled in white-slip with diaphanously draped classical beauties charming and taming cupid. The neck and solder elaborately decorated with Grecian anthemion ornament. The tapering lower section of each body gadrooned. On a conforming circular socle and gilt-dash decorated square base.

England, Circa 1877-78.

These rare vases designed in the Pompeiian style are spectacular examples of Mintons Pâte-sur-Pâte, painted by Louis Solon and made for display at the 1878 Paris International Exhibition. A review of Mintons display at the 1878 exhibition describes:

“Solon’s work in paste cannot be described.  Mintons’ court was enriched with a profusion of examples, and all of the highest degree of merit, on vases, plaques, and plates. There was no sign of wearying in well-doing by this master.  His work is incomparably superior to that of any of his imitators, far surpassing in art value the best examples of  figure-subjects  from  the  kilns  of  Sèvres.  He alone fully and satisfactorily unites skill in the technique of the paste and glaze and the genius of sculptor and designer.  His favourite subjects, as is well known, are the female form, Cupids, and cherubs. He delights in illustrating the pranks Cupid plays with the hearts of maidens.” (Reports of the United States commissioners to the Paris Universal Exposition 1878, Volume III, Iron and Steel, Ceramics  and  Glass,  Forestry,  Cotton, Washington, 1880, p. 136-137).

‘Cupid Chained’. Pâte-sur-Pâte plaque by Solon

‘Cupid Chained’. Pâte-sur-Pâte plaque by Solon illustrated in Reports of the United States commissioners to the Paris Universal Exposition 1878, Volume III, Washington, 1880, pl. 4.

During the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, when Paris was besieged, Louis Solon and a host of other talented ceramicists fled the turmoil to find an artistic haven in Stoke on Trent, to the great benefit of the Minton factory.

Léon Arnoux, the Art Director at Minton, had left France himself many years before.  Having trained at Sèvres, he knew the workmen, and had followed many of their careers with great interest.  In particular Louis Solon had caught his eye, and as the Prussian army closed in it didn’t take much to persuade him to join Leon Arnoux’s factory in Stoke-Upon-Trent.

The technique of Pâte-sur-Pâte had been invented in France just before the middle of the nineteenth century.  The imperial manufactory at Sèvres exhibited Pâte-sur-Pâte at the Great Exhibition in 1851.  Herbert Minton was a close friend of Henry Cole, who together with Prince Albert had been the brains behind the Great Exhibition.  From the Sèvres display a vase decorated with strawberries was bought for the new South Kensington Museum.  The following year Colin Minton Campbell bought a pair of vases for his own collection, and in 1855 Léon Arnoux wrote a glowing review of Sèvres Pâte-sur-Pâte at the Paris Exhibition.  Clearly he wanted Minton to make Pâte-sur-Pâte but they lacked any decorators with the necessary skills.

At Sèvres there were two principal Pâte-sur-Pâte decorators, Hyacinthe Régnier and Jules Gély.  Both taught Marc Louis Solon when he joined the Sèvres factory in 1857.  Solon had incredible technical skill, but more importantly he was a completely original artist.  Solon’s Pâte-sur-Pâte vases and plaques are unique compositions all.

After joining Minton in 1870 Solon was now decorating bone china rather than hard porcelain, and the lower firing temperature meant that detail was easier to control.  He was also able to develop a wider range of intense background colours.

Pâte-sur-Pâte decoration is painted in white ‘slip’ – clay diluted with water.  Many separate layers of ‘slip’ are applied and each is allowed to dry fully before the next application.  When dry the slip can be carved and tooled to emphasise the detail.  Anything up to thirty or forty layers are used to create the best compositions.  Finally when the work is completed the intense heat of the kiln transforms the clay into porcelain.  It is only after the second firing, covering the porcelain with transparent glaze, that the decorative effect can be fully appreciated. Pâte-sur-Pâte ‘is not a process of molding, hut of sculpturing, and can no more  he reproduced mechanically  than  can  a  Madonna  of  Raphael’ (Reports of the United States commissioners to the Paris Universal Exposition 1878, Volume III, Washington, 1880, p. 137).

Solon’s team of very talented apprentices at Minton continued to grow, and by 1873 included some very talented decorators.  Together they earned the factory huge international recognition.  So famous was Minton’s Pâte-sur-Pâte that it inspired excellent copies from Meissen, Berlin, Limoges, and in due course from the USA.  But no other manufacturer ever employed the talent to match Minton’s decorators.

Each vase took many months to complete, and cost an enormous sum to produce.  However there seemed to be no shortage of customers willing to pay Minton a considerable profit for the pieces.  However by 1904 Salon’s ever increasing salary was proving too much for Minton and he was forced to retire.  He did however continue to produce work for Minton until just before his death.  Out of Salon’s shadow emerged one of his apprentices Alboin Birks.  Birks was to make greater use of moulds to provide the basic elements of designs in order to control the high costs, however even this could not eventually preserve Pâte-sur-Pâte as a technique, as it became simply too difficult and costly.

It was observed at the 1878 Exhibition that “Messrs. Thomas Goode and Co., who are likewise not producers, have some fine specimens of china, mostly, we believe, manufactured by Messrs. Minton” (The Magazine of Art 1878: Vol 1, p. 100). From the beginning of their partnership in the mid-Victorian period, Thomas Goode remained principal patrons of Minton, commissioning new pieces and dealing for retail in antique Minton ceramics into the late 20th century.


Circa 1877-78






Each with Gilt Prince of Wales Feather mark with 1878 Paris Exhibition banner. Each signed 'L(ouis) Salon’. One vase stamped ‘1722 MINTONS’. The other vase with painted mark ‘2075’ and stamped ‘MINTONS’ with date cypher number for 1877.


The pottery and porcelain manufacturers Minton & Co. was founded in Stoke-on-Trent in 1793/6 by Thomas Minton (1765-1836), who was succeeded on his death by his son, Herbert Minton (1793-1858). The factory traded under various styles until 1845 when Minton & Co. was adopted. Mintons was Europe’s leading ceramic factory during the Victorian era and a world leader in ceramics design. At Minton numerous different porcelain and ceramic techniques were mastered and designs produced in a plethora of styles ranging from the rococo to the Gothic revival. As well as pottery, Minton made ceramic sculptures, tiles and architectural ceramics which were used at both the Houses of Parliament in London the US States Capitol building. Minton exhibited and was awarded at all of the great exhibitions of the late nineteenth century.

Mintons began producing tableware, often transfer-printed or painted earthenware, including the ever-popular Willow pattern. Together with other great potters of the period, including Wedgwood, William Adams and the owners of New Hall porcelain, Minton had a stake in the Hendra china clay works at St. Dennis in Cornwall. In the early nineteenth century Minton produced relatively restrained Regency designs which parcel gilding and painted scenes which were objects of desire to the burgeoning middle classes. By the middle of the century, Herbert Minton had expanded the business considerably, with new production techniques notably including decorative encaustic tile making, through his association with leading architects and designers including Augustus Pugin. After Herbert Minton’s death in 1858, the tile business was continued by Michael Daintry Hollins and the china business was continued by Colin Minton Campbell, who had become a partner in 1849. Hollins and Campbell carried on in partnership until 1868, thereafter Hollins continued the tile business, and Campbell the china works, trading as Minton’s China Works, until 1918.

It was during the mid-Victorian period that Minton established its pre eminent reputation under the auspices of a young French ceramicist Léon Arnoux (1816-1902) who was employed as art director in 1849 and remained with the Minton Company until 1892. Arnoux reinvigorated the fortunes of the company and formulated the tin-glazes used for Mintons Majolica and Palissy ware, both of which proved hugely commercially successful following their acclaimed display at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Mintons was also awarded a gold medal at the 1855 Paris Exposition universelle. Another mainstay of Mintons success was Parian ware, which was the replication of famous marble sculptures in white biscuit porcelain, albeit reduced in scale. Its popularity was greatly aided by Queen Victoria’s collection of Parian ware statuettes. Under Arnoux’s leadership, Mintons established a lively competition with the Sèvres porcelain manufactory, developing the technical ability to replicate the pink and turquoise glazes made by Sèvres in the 18th century and previously their preserve. By the 1870s and 1880s the consummate design studio and technical workshop brilliance led to the creation of astounding pieces made for the Great Exhibitions which were considered superior to anything produced at Sevres or by any other international competitor, such as Germany’s Meisson.

With the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 many artists and craftsman who had been sponsored by the regime of the now defeated Emperor Napoleon III sough exile in England. At Minton, Arnoux seized the opportunity and recruited the modeller Marc-Louis Solon (1835-1913) who had developed the technique of pâte-sur-pâte at Sèvres and brought it with him to Minton. In this process the design is built up in relief with layers of liquid slip, with each layer being allowed to dry before the next is applied. There was great demand for Solon’s plaques and vases, featuring maidens and cherubs, and Minton assigned him apprentices to help the firm become the unrivalled leader in this field. Others introduced to Minton by Arnoux included the sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse and the painter Antoine Boullemier. It was the successes achieved at Minton by Arnoux’s appointment of Solon and Carrier-Belleuse which ensures the glorious reputation of Minton to this day. Engagement of the British designer Christopher Dresser also proved a huge artistic and commercial success for Minton. Dresser had travelled to Japan and in the 1870s produced at Minton a number of pieces reflection the fashion for ‘Japonisme’ which in turn informed a new aesthetic in ceramic design. This emphasis on the importance of design, including the establishment of a design school, as well as the perfection of technique, ensured Mintons success in to the early twentieth century which saw continued innovation with Art Nouveau and Secessionist designs.

The fortunes of Minton and other Staffordshire potteries declined sharply in the interwar period and Mintons’ tableware devision was merged with Royal Doulton after World War II and by the 1980s was producing only a handful of different shapes, albeit maintaining an emphasis on the importance of design by employing highly skilled painters. Mintons main factory on London Road, Stoke-on-Trent was demolished in the 1990s, and the other factory, including office accommodation and a Minton Museum, was demolished in 2002 as part of rationalisation within the Royal Doulton group. The Minton archive was acquired by Waterford Wedgwood in 2005 and is now preserved by the City of Stoke-on-Trent.


Thomas Goode & Co.

Exposition universelle, Paris, 1878


Joan Jones, Minton: the first two hundred years of design & production, Swan Hill Press, 1993 p. 192 and 193 (illustrated).

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