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Arts & Crafts Lewis Day Mythical Beast Ruby Lustre Tile Maw & Co

Condition: Fine
Price: £600 (approx $776)
Stock number: 07084

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Very minor rim/surface marks, white mark near centre a glazed over manufacturing chip.



Style: Arts & crafts
• Technique: Lustre
• Designer: Lewis Foreman Day
• Maker: Maw & Co
Dimensions: 6" x 6"
Date: 1895 (circa)

A fabulous stylised beast which I take to be a wolf designed by Lewis Day and painted in ruby lustre. One of a series of six designs each painted in left and right versions, they are elusive and sought after, a somewhat inferior example from the series achieved £588 at Christies in 2002.

Four including this are shown on the catalogue sheet reproduced on 180 of Lewis Foreman Day, by Joan Maria Hansen. In a rich ruby red lustre, John Catleugh makes an interesting comment about lustre colours in his book about de Morgan tiles.

Day rarely included animals in his designs thinking them too bold to be used in general decoration so to be only used in features as this design clearly is intended. Day's work is mostly that of wallcoverings and fabrics designed to create a pleasing environment rather than make a bold statement although he sure could when he wanted to.

Maw & Co together with their near neighbours Craven Dunnill and the Welsh company J C Edwards* produced the best quality lustre tiles in the more usual copper (red) and silver (gold). The process relying on a reaction between the atmosphere in the kiln and the painted stain results in a brilliant metallic sheen that is literally on the very surface and hence is often subject to marks like scratches and wears. The difficulty and unpredictability of the process also means that rather more less than perfect lustre tiles were acceptable. They were vastly more expensive than tiles decorated by other techniques, up to eight times more expensive than other handpainted tiles of the day.

Despite the quality of lustre tiles in both design and execution by the Jackfield companies those by William de Morgan achieve higher prices for lesser items, if this was de Morgan it would be 2 - 4 times the price.

Copper lustre is so-called because the element that makes the colour is copper, the effect however is of brilliant red and lustre was the only way to achieve this colour in the 19thC.

Maw & Co were the greatest of all the Victorian tile makers, not only mass producers, the largest company in the world for a decade or more, but also producing fine artistic works of such quality not normally associated with large companies. Not only did their mass production techniques exceed the quality of all the better known names such as Mintons and Pilkington but they also used more techniques than any other company. In the 19thC there are just a few small niches in which other companies surpassed Maws excellence, de Morgan in exotic seascapes especially panels, for a time W B Simpson with their brilliant underglaze colours (they were London agents for Maw & Co), Mintons Ltd in Reynolds Patent multicolour printing, Marsden for stencilled slip and Sherwin & Cotton for their émaux ombrants (mostly 20thC really). No tile printer was as good at fine printing, or glazing, or moulding, or as versatile, Maw & Co. produced more patterns than all the Minton companies combined, it was only when art nouveau came along in the twentieth century and George and Arthur were no longer involved that the company lost its preeminence.

Verso very clean embossed Maw & Co Ld England.


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