Delftware from a St. Louis collection

Editorial Staff Art

BY REKA NEILSON FISHER, Curatorial assistant, Saint Louis Art Museum

THE CREAMICS COLLECTION of Mr. and Mrs. George S. Rosborough Jr., of Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, is mainly devoted to English earthenware of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Initially they collected early nineteenth-century yellow-glazed earthenware, but then they turned to earlier wares, particularly delftware, which attracted them because of the freshness of the decoration, drawn directly on the glaze.

  • Tin-glazed earthenware charger attributed to Bristol, c. 1690. Diameter 121/2 inches. This was the first piece of delftware to enter the Rosboroushs’ collection. Representations of the Temptation were popular in England during the seventeenth and well into the eighteenth century, and stem from the iconography of Italian majolica. The back of the charger is covered with an uneven yellowish tin glaze with some green staining. There are three spur marks on the face. An Italian sixteenth-century interpretation of this subject is illustrated in Jeanne Giacomotti, Catalogue des majoliques des musees nationaux (Paris, 1974), p. 136, Pl. 469.



  • Tin-glazed earthenware charger attributed to Lambeth, c. 1680, Diameter 14 inches. The attribution to Lambeth is based on the pinkish tone of the white enamel, which is sometimes found on seventeenth-century Lambeth wares. The presence of spur markes on the face and the slightly opaque lead-glazed back with some green staining reinforce the early dating. The design is reminiscent of mid-fifteenth-century Italian drug jars decorated with oak leaves. The oejects illustrated are in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Goerge S. Rosborough Jr.; photographs are by Helga Photo Studio.  

  • Tin-glazed earthenware candlestick, London, c. 1650. Heigh 9 ½ inches. A similar candlestick is in the Glashier Collection in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (illustrated in F.H Garner and Michael Archer, English Delftware [London, 1972], Pl. 29a). The shape is derived from contemporary northern European and English pewter, brass, and silver candlesticks, as can be seen in a pair of silver candlesticks marked AM (probably for Andrew Moore) and bearing the London hallmark for 1653, illustrated in Michael Clayton, The Collector’s Dictionary of the Silver and Gold of Great Britain and North America (New York, 1971), p. 39, No. 67. The relationship between seventeenth-century metal and earthenware shapes is underscored by the fact that John Campion of London, one of the master potters of this period, was also a member of the City Company of Pewterers. 



  • Tin-glazed earthenware charger attributed to Brislington or Bristol, c. 1720. Diameter 123/4 inches. The tones of cobalt blue, sponged green and sealing-wax red indicate a date in the first third of the eighteenth century. The unusual blue-dash border is more regularly ordered and carefully rendered than a similar border on what is probably a Brislington or Bristol charger depicting Adam and Eve that is illustrated in Anthony Ray, English Delftware Pottery in the Robert Hall Warren Collection, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (London, 1968), Pl. 3, No. 9. The subject of the decoration has not yet been traced to a print or ceramic source. Aside from Eve, female nudes are rare on English delftware. The nymph is reminiscent of the crouching Venus and closely related subjects based on the antique which appear in sixteenth- and seventeenth- and eighteenth-century painting symbolized the intimate activities of the boudoir as well as the broader field of the hunt (see Donald Posner, Watteau: Lady at her Toilet [New York, 1974], pp. 77-83).

  • Tin-glazed earthenware bird feeder, probably Bristol, c. 1750. Height 5 inches. The decoration consists of lappets around the base, and birds, flowers and dragonflies of Chinese derivation. 



  • Tin-glazed earthenware bowl attributed to Bristol, c. 1690. Diameter 8 ½ inches. The bowl has three spur marks on the face and a lead-glazed back, which support the seventeenth-century dating. Animals are not common on delftware, and the hare is one of the few species to be depicted (Ray, English Delftware Pottery, p. 177). However, the hare is frequently represented on Italian majolica of the sixteenth century as a symbol of fecundity and love, and points to the lineage of English tin-glazed earthenware from the ancient Middle East to Italy, to the Low Countries, and thence to England. 



  • Tin-glazed earthenware punch bowl attributed to Liverpool, c. 1760. Diameter 12 inches. The elegant and asymmetrical decoration is restricted to one half of the bowl and, atypically, the interior and exterior decoration is compositionally joined. By varying the brush stroke, tone, and intensity of the cobalt, and by the use of sgraffito decoration on the leaves, the painter has created a richly textured surrounding for the yellow chrysanthemums whose centers have been left the bluish tinted ground color. Blue painted over the lemon-yellow petals results in the green tint found on these flowers, while manganese is used in the stems and tendrils to give contrast and depth to the design. 



  • Tin-glazed earthenware salt, probably London, c 1650. Height 4 ¼ inches. Probably derived from Dutch silver prototypes, this salt may indeed be Dutch. Precise attribution is difficult because of the frequent stylistic interaction between the potteries of England and the Low Countries at this period. Similar silver salts appear in Flemish and Dutch still-life paintings of the seventeenth century. A mid-century date is indicated by the small size of the salt, for by that time individual salts had replaced the massive earlier types. 



  • Tin-glazed earthenware bottle attributed to Dublin, c.1755. Height 10 inches. The decoration of large lotus petals, each encompassing a stemmed lotus blossom on a background of tightly curled Chinese symbols for water, is a design found on K ang His blue and white porcelain. It was formerly thought to be a motif associated only with Dublin delftware, but there are indications that it was also used at Lambeth. The bottle is very similar to one shown in Michael Archer and Patrick Hickey, Irish Delftware (Castletown House, Celbridge, County Kildare, Ireland, 1971), No. 35

    55. Height 10 inches.


  • Tin-glazed earthenware fruit basket attributed to Dublin or Liverpool, c. 1755. Diameter 71/2 inches. Reflecting contemporaneous silver shapes, this beautifully reticulated and thinly pottered bowl rests on an equally thinly potted high foot rim that is in perfect proportion to the bowl. The decoration is in the light blue characteristic of wares from the early years of the Delamain factory in Dublin and of wares made in Liverpool at the same time. On a smooth cobalt tinted glaze, a Chinese landscape is finely painted on the interior of the bowl. The floral decoration on the exterior below the reticulation is similar to that on the exterior of a sauceboat attributed to Dublin or Liverpool illustrated in Ray, English Delftware Pottery, Pl. 48, top. The fruit basket is painted in a thin, grainy mottled blue in which separate particles of the cobalt appear to be in imperfect suspension. Formerly thought to have been made solely in Dublin, tin-glazed earthenware reticulated baskets of Liverpool origin are known, and there is recent evidence that they were also made at Vauxhall in London. 



The Rosboroughs’ English delftware collection is comprised of all-white, mid-seventeenth-century wares, late seventeenth-century decorated wares primarily made in London and Bristol, and later wares from Bristol, Liverpool, and Dublin. There are also examples of tin-glazed earthenware of exceptional quality from France, Sweden, and Russia.

The Rosboroughs’ delftware is distinguished by the collectors’ discriminating taste and their sensitive, scholarly approach to collecting.