Thomas Harley, English, 1778-1832
Medium: Silver lustreware
12 1/2 × 15 1/2 × 12 1/2 in. (31.8 × 39.4 × 31.8 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Mary Semmes Orr in honor of Stella Stroh Menke
Object Number: 91.7
Not on view
Metallic lustreware was developed in Staffordshire in northern England around 1800 to provide an inexpensive imitation of the silver and porcelain used by the upper classes. It was created by applying a thin coating of metal oxide to an earthenware object that was then fired to produce a lustrous surface. When platinum was used, the piece would resemble silver; when gold was applied, various hues—such as gold, copper, lavender, or pink—would result, according to the amount of metal used in the solution and the color of the clay body. Lustreware could be decorated with transfer prints or stenciling, or painted freehand with colored enamels. It was very popular and was produced in great quantity in potteries throughout northern England and Wales until it’s replacement around 1850, by the newly developed, inexpensive electroplated silver.
Probably the most popular lustreware form was the jug used for milk or other liquids, which could be purchased in a wide range of sizes. This unusually large jug (part of the Brooks’ large collection of 19th-century English lustreware) was not intended for domestic use. Instead, it was created for display in a shop window to attract attention to the types of wares sold, thereby earning the popular name “advertising jug.” The form and decoration of this jug are characteristic of the work of Thomas Harley, a well-known potter who produced lustreware in his own workshop in Lane End, Longton, Staffordshire, between 1805 and 1808, and then in partnership as Harley and Seckerson Company until 1824. Relief-molded, the jug’s raised diamond-shaped decoration resembles the surface of a pineapple. The body of the piece is soft yellow with alternating diamonds in brightly contrasting silver lustre. This motif is sometimes called the harlequin pattern because of its similarity to the diamond-shaped design decorating the clothing of Harlequin, the well-known character from the Italian commedia dell’arte and model for the jack-in-the-box.