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Fascinating Group of Moyr Smith Mintons Studio Tiles
 

Style: Classical Studio Tiles
Technique: Painted
Maker: Mintons Studio
Dimensions: Each tile 6" x 6"
Date: 1875 (circa)

 

A most intriguing group of tiles, designs by John Moyr Smith frequently or less frequently seen as printed tiles from Mintons or Minton, Hollins & Co. Painted by hand in four colours, very well painted and an interesting choice of colours.

Represented are examples of three series; The Idylls of the Kings, The Waverley Novels and Authors and Their Works. In each case the format differs from that found in the printed series. Of particular interest is that two series were made by Mintons and the third by Minton, Hollins & Co..

The tiles are finely painted and show little indication of previous use, there is no evidence of fixing apart from some black stain on two edges of most tiles. No recognisable adhesive or remains/marks thereof, no evidence of fixing by nails as usual in wooden frames and furniture. The black marks could possibly be the remains of bitumen however it is difficult to comprehend how the tiles could have been well cleaned of such or indeed other adhesive given other factors.

The decoration is painted overglaze in four colours, overglaze decoration is subject to wear and other damage in the passing of time however there is no evidence of wear or damage to the painting, no cleaning marks, no surface chips save on the broken Chaucer tile. There are some minor marks of rubbing by the frames but they were in fairly modern frames and there is no evidence of contemporary frames. For the most part there is very little stain in the crazing what there is would simply be atmospheric soot from candles, gas lights etc that was part of everyday life

So there is little hard evidence to indicate what the original use of the tiles was or how they have been preserved but it seems very little happened to them for many years, maybe in excess of one hundred years.

The designs have been taken from the original drawings rather than been copied from the printed examples., the Authors series follows the originals whereas the printed series are reversed left to right aka mirror image.

That all are apparently produced by Mintons Studio suggests that Mintons had the opportunity to license the 'Authors' series but declined and it was later taken up by Minton, Hollins & Co..

The grip patterns are mostly the offset grid just one has a named Mintons verso, this ties in with the likeliest date of 1875 when the Studio moved to Stoke and when The Studio was using Mintons blanks rather than Minton, Taylor's.

I have two possible explanations for the facts as I find them, (i) that the tiles were made by Mintons Studio on commission for a particular job/client and (ii) that the tiles are samples or trial pieces prior to the engravings being produced for the mass produced printed series, I believe the latter is more likely explanation. The lack of signs of use suggests that they were not used in a commission but that they were stored in a safe place for most of their life as can and does happen to unused samples and test pieces.

It should be noted that the colours used are amenable to printing process of the 1870s although what may be perceived as flesh tones in pink would have readily been interpreted as flesh tones in tans. It should also be understood that Mintons had two distinct tile operations, the earthenware works produced printed tiles in the limited range of colours available for printing, the studio produced painted tiles in all manner of colours.

It is tempting to wonder if Moyr Smith painted them himself, the original artwork for such designs is line art and it would be reasonable to show them in colours that could be readily mass produced in order to sell the designs to Mintons. Lack of a signature means nothing, Moyr Smith would not presume to sign his own work as a test piece, manufacturers only permit artists' signatures on work when they judge that it adds to the marketability of the product and does not dilute the brand. Mintons wanted customers to think of the tiles as Mintons' tiles not Moyr Smith's tiles but Smith was a famous artist published in Punch magazine and his name had market recognition and added value.

Whilst I investigate further I present these tiles to promote discussion and hopefully advance my understanding, and offers may be considered for the group prior to specific valuations. Splitting groups of tiles is always a difficult decision there for certain are times when groups add considerably to the knowledge, understanding and experience of those able to enjoy however alternatively tiles spread about can spread the pleasure. I do believe that this group may be of significance to a specialist collector or museum so I shall mull it over, any suggestions please contact me. Different series have different levels of appeal being rarer and so on.

Four tiles are are fine to near perfect condition, two are excellent/very good, Kenilworth has a reglued corner (not brilliantly done), Chaucer has been in four parts and glued/restored and could do with a better job being executed. Some will clean up a little better.

I first saw these as a group of twelve, the image at the bottom of the page, unfortunately the owner did not take my advice nor follow through on the acceptance of my offer instead sold to a book dealer. Well they are literary subjects!










 

 

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