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Pair of Lewis Day Mythical Beast Lustre Tiles

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


A fabulous pair of stylised lionesses almost in the heraldic pose with an especially aggressively coutenance in two shades of copper lustre. The heraldic Lion Rampant Regardant symbolises deathless courage and I sure would not like to meet these beasts for they make the Hound of the Baskerville's look timid! 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.

Illustrated in Barnard (plate 54) and another tile from the group is shown in Austwick on page 98, four including this are shown on page 181 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 just in features as this design clearly is. Day's work is mostly that of wallcoverings and fabrics and 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 these were de Morgan they 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.

Versos perfectly clean embossed Maw & Co Ld England.

They were bought together from an original fireplace although amazingly good condition for fireplace tiles, it is nice to see them as a pair as they don't often come along paired but we may consider splitting.


Condition: Near perfect
Price: £1450 (approx $1876)
Ref: 05901A/B


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Ref: 05901A/B

Perfect rims, only the very slightest of surface marks, left tile has a little in-glaze blooming near the left side from the lustre process (in creating the metallic lustre by reducing the copper oxide the lead oxide in the glaze may also be reduced).


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