Refined, white-bodied English earthenware decorated with
underglaze painted motifs, either in blue or combinations of colors. Date
ranges can be assigned to these wares based on colors used, styles of
the painting, and vessel shapes.
The chronology of painted earthenwares can be related
to technological changes in clay bodies, glazes, and temperature-stable
colors. Early underglaze decoration on creamware was generally mottled
because the lead glaze affected the stability of the mineral colors. These
are sometimes called clouded or mottled wares, and other examples include
the tortoiseshell or Rockingham style of glazes. In addition, there were
colored glazes used to cover broad areas of molded relief decoration on
the cauliflower, pineapple and other fruit wares. Along with these early
types of underglaze decoration, there were enamel painted patterns, which
were on top of the glaze.
In the mid-1770s, new materials, including kaolin
clay and Gowan stone from Cornwall, were being introduced into
the glaze formulas. These new ingredients, as well as the fritting of glazes, produced a stable environment in which painted patterns
were less susceptible to being absorbed into the glaze and thus
stayed in place on the vessel. This led to a major shift in the
underglaze painting of wares that can be seen in archaeological
assemblages. The great majority of creamware that archaeologists
see is rarely decorated, while what has been labeled “pearlware”
is almost never undecorated. Thus, pearlware did not replace creamware;
decoration replaced creamware.
Summary: Underglaze Painted Patterns
Enamelled Creamware (c. 1775-1825)
Because enamel painted patterns are fired at a lower
temperature than that of the glaze, the colors are not subject
to being partly absorbed into the glaze. Thus, enamel painted
decoration is more controlled than patterns painted under the
glaze. Lower firing temperatures for the enamel painting also
meant that a wider range of colors were available for overglaze
decoration, as not all mineral colors can survive the temperature
necessary to develop a glaze. In addition to a greater range of
colors, overglaze decorations had the advantage of not being affected
by the acidity of the glaze, and thus were much clearer in their
detail. But this advantage came at a price: overglaze decoration
was subject to being worn off in use and thus was not as permanent
as underglaze decoration. Overglaze decoration needed an additional
firing to fix the colors, so they were more expensive than underglaze
decorated wares. Enamel painted wares were more common in the
last quarter of the eighteenth century; by the early nineteenth
century they began to be replaced by underglaze painted wares.
A two-volume work on the Leeds Pottery has reproduced
eight of their pattern and shape books in full color, depicting
hundreds of enamel painted patterns illustrating the wide range
of colors and styles used to paint Leeds creamware (Griffin 2005).
These patterns date from the last quarter of the eighteenth century
into the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Many of these
patterns were later adopted as underglaze patterns and probably
reproduced by a number of potters. Underglaze painted patterns
were far more common than enamel painted patterns, particularly
after around 1800.
Blue Painted China
Glaze Period (c. 1775-1810)
Blue was the dominant underglaze color for China glaze and the
early pearlwares from c. 1775 until around 1795. During this
period, most of the blue painting was in a chinoiserie style (Miller
and Hunter 2001). The development of underglaze printing in the
mid-1780s appears to have played a role in limiting the painting
of chinoiserie-style landscapes on tableware, but blue painted
China glaze teawares appear to have continued to be made until
Polychrome Painted Patterns (c. 1795-1830)
The volatility of prices and problems with the
supply of cobalt due to the Napoleonic Wars appear to have a relationship
to the introduction and increased production of underglaze painted
polychrome wares that began appearing in the mid-1790s (and to
the decline in blue painted wares). Polychrome painted wares from
the period c. 1795 to c. 1815 often do not have any cobalt blue
in the patterns, or when it is present, it is rarely the dominant
color. These wares used oxides of copper green, antimony yellow,
iron brown, and manganese brown, because they were often under
a blue-tinted “pearlware”.
Polychrome painted wares with an increasing use
of cobalt blue
c. 1815 to 1830. Later in this period, the amount
of blue tinting declines as a whiteware was being developed.
Blue Floral Painted
Pearlware (c. 1815-1830)
Following the end of the Napoleonic Wars, cobalt blue painted
wares again become common. This period’s blue floral painted
patterns with large brush strokes were unlike the earlier, smaller
floral painted patterns. While there was a dramatic increase in
the use of cobalt blue, there is very little evidence of chinoiserie-style
painted patterns following the War of 1812. Their place seems
to have been taken by the printed patterns, such as the blue willow
and others in a Chinese style.
Chrome Colors (1830-1860)
The introduction of borax into the glazes facilitated the use
of chrome colors—greens, reds and yellows—that became
common after 1830 in the Staffordshire potteries. Chrome was identified
as an element in 1798 by the French chemist Louis Nicolas Vauquelin.
The metal was given the name chrome because of the variety of
colors that could be derived from it. The earliest recorded use
of chrome as a ceramic colorant was as a green ground on Sevres
porcelain in 1802 (Préaud and Ostergard 1997:154), but
it was not common on refined earthenwares until around 1830.
One of the prominent new chrome colors was red
(actually more a pinkish red), made with chrome oxides in combination
with alkaline glazes using borax. Because underglaze red and pink
colors were not available until chrome oxides were introduced,
they become excellent tpq indicators for the post 1830 period.
Black became a common color for stems in floral painted wares
from the 1830s on through the rest of the century.
Sprig Painted Wares (c. 1835 - 1870s)
The earliest painted patterns, such as the China
glaze landscapes, required a skilled painter and a large number
of brush strokes, and thus were more expensive to produce. As
the prices for painted wares fell, the potters were looking for
ways to cut production costs. One of the ways to do this was the
simplification of the painted patterns. By c. 1835, sprig patterns
were being introduced. These were very simple small floral painted
patterns that only required four-to-six short brush stokes for
each element. Sprig painted wares remained common up into the
1870s and possibly later.
Painted decoration is found on refined white earthenwares. Refined
white earthenwares have a hard, somewhat porous body, and thin
walls. Crushed, finely ground silicon, feldspar, and occasionally
kaolin, were added to the clay to produce a white body (Kybalová
Archaeologists have traditionally used the terms pearlware and
whiteware to describe ceramic vessels decorated with painted motifs.
By the 1780s, Staffordshire potters, importers, and merchants
rarely referred to ware type to describe vessels. Ceramics were
described by their type of decoration, e.g. “edged,”
“painted,” “dipt,” and “printed”
(Miller 1980). Two exceptions to this are creamware and Egyptian
black (black basalt). The potters’ name for what is commonly
called pearlware was “China
glaze,” which predates Josiah Wedgwood’s “Pearl
white” by at least five years. However, the terms China
glaze, pearl white, and pearlware are almost non-existent in the
potters’ price fixing lists, invoices, accounting records,
and correspondence (Miller and Hunter 2001). Separating vessels
by their ware types has minimal value and lumps together tea,
table, and toilet wares. For a further discussion of the evolution
of creamware, pearlware, and whiteware, click
Very little creamware was painted under the glaze,
and thus it is rather rare in archaeological collections. The
major shift was the development around 1775 of what the potters
called China glaze, an imitation of Chinese porcelain. This ware
was painted in blue Chinese-style patterns and had a blue tint
to the glaze to make the wares look like Chinese porcelain. In
addition, vessels such as cups and bowls were produced in a simple
Chinese bowl shape, and the footrings of plates were undercut
in a Chinese style. These wares remained popular up until the
period of the Napoleonic Wars, when cobalt became scarce because
supplies from Saxony and Norway were cut off by economic blockades.
It appears that China glaze painted wares fell off in production
as a result, suggesting an end date for them of around 1810.
Painted earthenwares most commonly have a clear lead glaze. A
blue tint was added to the glaze of China glaze patterns that
began in the mid-1770s. Blue-tinted glazes continued to be used
for the polychrome painted patterns that began showing up in the
mid-1790s, and to some extent the blue floral patterns of the
post-Napoleonic War period also had a blue-tinted glaze. These
blue-tinted glazed wares are generally classified as pearlware,
but the potters and merchants of that period classified them by
how they were decorated rather than by their ware type.
The dominant vessel forms for painted wares from archaeological
sites and invoices are cups and saucers. For the first three quarters
of the nineteenth century, painted wares were predominantly teaware.
Plates with painted decoration are rather rare prior to around
the 1840s, and dipt decoration was the dominant type for hollowares.
Painted teas were the cheapest color-decorated teawares from the
1790s through the nineteenth century, and were the most popular
type of teaware for most of that period (Miller and Earls 2008).