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“London Saltglazed Stoneware, mostly Brown” by PHILIP MERNICK

On 9 October 2019, we were very pleased to welcome Mr Philip Mernick to our meeting. Philip is a retired industrial chemist, living in London and a collector of salt glazed pottery, mostly brown.

It was whilst visiting local London antique markets that he found a salt glazed jug in the hunting style similar to Doulton by John Vauxhall. It was the utilitarian quality of this distinctive pottery and the mystery of “who made what and when” that appealed to him. Philip joined societies to learn more about salt glaze pottery and became a member and ultimately a lecturer at Morley College. There are now over 1000 pieces in his collection!

Philip went on to explain that it was John Dwight who identified the method of the salt glaze process for rendering earthenware impermeable. In 1672, Dwight was granted a patent of 14 years for “the mistery of transparent earthenware, commonly known by the names of porcelain or china, and of stoneware, vulgarly called Cologne ware”. He then established the Fulham Pottery. The staple output was brown stoneware thus breaking the German monopoly on Bellarmine.

The British Museum contains several of the best of Dwight’s pieces, including a bust of Prince Rupert. Other specimens are in the Victoria and Albert Museum and The London Museum. Sadly, Dwight’s six-year-old daughter Lydia died in 1674 and in her memory, he produced two very personal ceramic sculptures in order to capture her likeness and perpetuate her memory. These are among the oldest examples of this type in Europe.

Many of Dwight’s stoneware bottles were personalised with applied medallions containing initials, names, dates or inn signs, in the same way as contemporary sealed wine bottles. The beer bottles supplied for use at the famous Cock Alehouse at Temple Bar (on the south side of the Strand in London and much frequented by the diarist Samuel Pepys) are the most numerous to survive, while fragmentary ‘Cock’ medallions from many slightly-differing moulds were excavated at the Fulham Pottery in 1971-9 .

It was Henry Doulton in the nineteenth century who exploited the salt glaze process on an industrial scale in Lambeth, especially in the profitable fields of bottle-making and drainpipes. A glaze is formed by throwing common salt into the kiln at about 1,800F (1,000C) during the firing and thus releasing hydrochloric acid into the atmosphere.

“The Art of Cameo Glass – from Ancient Rome to Emile ” by Scott Anderson

The Art of Cameo Glass – from Ancient Rome to Emile Galle

Our Speaker in September was Mr Scott Anderson, recently retired lecturer at Southampton Solent University.  His talk took us on an interesting trail through the history of cameo glass, and in particular the Portland Vase, originally known as the Barberini Vase.

 Found in 1582 in a sarcophagus of one of the Caesars in Rome, where it must have been placed over 2000 years ago,  has proved to be the most important example of cameo glass in the world. It stands 9.8ins high, of dark blue glass with a finely carved layer of white glass on top depicting mythological scenes and figures.

For the next 150 years the vase remained in the Barberini family until 1782 when it was purchased by the Duke of Portland and placed for safe keeping in the British Museum, who eventually purchased it for the nation.  A few years later Josiah Wedgwood was able to produce his first copy of the vase in black and white Jasperware which was an overnight sensation when it went on sale in 1790. 

The Portland Vase has been the inspiration of many glassmakers, for example John Northwood, who after studying the Elgin Marbles, sparked  a resurgence of interest in Greek and Roman glass making,  especially cameo glass, when he produced by hand the first glass replica of the Vase in 1876.

Influenced by the Portland Vase after a visit to the British Museum, Emile Galle can take credit for a revival in cameo glass at a time when the classical designs of Rome/Greece were out of fashion.  From 1889 in his workshops in Nancy he created new vibrant designs and we were shown some beautiful examples of these. Galle is considered by many to be the most important glassmaker of The Art Nouveau Movement in the 19th and early 20th century.  On his death in 1904 the Daum Brothers, became the masters of the day and their work continued through the Art Deco era.

It was a very interesting presentation with plenty of visual examples of cameo art inspired by a very special 9.8in Roman artefact.