Floral Bliss

By Karen Parr-Moody

When spring warms the air, it is nearly impossible to ignore the flowers bursting open everywhere. And for antique lovers, it is certainly easy to see the florals in bloom at GasLamp, from dessert plates to charming lamps.

Mottahedeh is a 75-year-old company with a pedigree: The firm has made china for the President, the State Department and for the Diplomatic Corps. It is known for serene looks; its R. Haviland & C. Parlon’s Arc en Ciel plates, with their dusty pink or mint green edges rimmed by gilt, come to mind. But the firm also reaches back to the roots of Victorian majolica with its Majolica Reproduction lines. The gorgeous teacup and dessert plate in the photo, above right, belongs to that world with its pink and lavender blossoms and curling leaves (8 pairs of cups and plates, $68; Booth B-138). This beautiful set of ceramic plates and cups, made in Italy, includes an array of pastel tones that will easily tie into one’s spring decor or table setting.

The vase in the photo, left, is an original piece of majolica ($75; B-106). With its floral design, it is a testimony to spring’s renewal. While it is covered in poppies, the original majolica designs also brought humble vegetables from the farm to the table. This porous earthenware, decorated in vivid colors using a lead or tin glaze, was first introduced by Minton & Company at London’s Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851. At that time, majolica focused on Renaissance motifs, such as lions, rams and mythological figures, but it eventually came to encompass vegetables and flowers.

This floral porcelain lobster serving dish in the photo, right, is one of a type that was first seen during the Victorian era and was often made in Germany ($98; Booth B-106). And no wonder. The Victorians were fascinated by the quirky and extravagant when it came to tableware. In fact, The Wedgwood Museum has a similar lobster piece. The Wedgwood archives say that during the height of this craze, the company introduced many items of similar novelty tableware, particularly salad and serving bowls, disguised with various flora and fauna.

This double-bowl example has a lobster for a handle and violets decorating the interior. Many of these that survive will have the lobster dutifully painted the tomato red of its natural shell. Others, like this one, will have a gilt handle (this one’s gilt has worn off over the years, giving it a shabby chic look). The bowl’s soft palette of pastel violets give it a romantic twist.

The lamp in the photo, left, is done in the vein of Capodimonte and contains raised flowers formed from delicate porcelain ($385; Booth B-105). Upon close examination, one will see that putti and pretty ladies gallivant among the flowers; such is the style of these  lamps.

Capodimonte, which in Italian means “Top of the Hill,” made its debut due to a jealous notion of Charles III of Naples (1716-1788). He wanted to create a porcelain that would rival that of the first European hard paste porcelain factory, which was founded in Meissen, Germany in 1710. The soft-paste wares were first produced by a factory established in 1743 at the Palazzo of Capodimonte until 1759; it was moved to Buen Retiro, near Madrid, when Charles became king of Spain.









In an altogether different time and place – the 1940s to 1970s of America – another type of flower found its way as decoration of head vases and, also, lamps, as seen in the photo at right ($24.95; W-403). Around the lady's graceful neck is a chain of daisies, just in time for spring. This lamp, like the lady head vases, is made of semi-porcelain.  Her perfectly arched eyebrows, Cupid’s bow lips and thick lashes are indicative of the style. Hairstyles, jewelry and fashions of these lady heads tended to be elaborate. The eras of each vase can usually be identified by the style of the hair or fashions; by that measure, this lamp is most likely from the late 1950s or early 1960s. 

As we spring into spring – and soon hurtle into summer – who doesn’t want to bring a few flowers indoors? When they are tastefully located on an array of tabletop items and tableware, they certainly do stealthily creep into our hearts and rooms.

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