Earthenware, decorated in majolica glazes
Made in Stoke-on-Trent, 1873-1880
Accession number WAG 3985
This magnificent peacock, seated on a rock, was made as one of a series of large-scale animals and birds modelled by Paul Comolera (1818-1897). It was made at the Minton Factory in Stoke-on-Trent in the 1870s. Comolera was born in Paris and was trained by the sculptor Francois Rude and first worked in bronze. He came to Minton as a modeller in 1873.
The peacock is made from majolica, developed by Leon Arnoux (1816-1902) from 1849. Arnoux was born in Toulouse, the son of Antoine Arnoux, porcelain and earthenware manufacturer and several times mayor of Toulouse. After qualifying as an engineer Arnoux worked for his father. He came to England in 1848 to study manufacturing techniques. While at Minton's he undertook research and impressed Herbert Minton who offered him a job as art director.
Minton majolica is inspired by Italian Renaissance ceramics of the 15th and 16th centuries, which were usually spelt maiolica. At Minton, Arnoux used a fine buff earthenware decorated with a range of transparent glazes coloured with metal oxides that could be painted directly on to the unfired body. Minton majolica was officially introduced at the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in 1851 and, being both bold and colourful appealed to Victorian taste. The Victorians were enthusiastic about objects inspired by nature and animals. Majolica lent itself easily to the fabulous and colourful ceramics produced by Minton in the 19th century.
Minton peacocks gained fame in 1878 when a ship, the Loch Ard, carrying an example of the model to the Sydney Exhibition of 1879 and the Melbourne Exhibition of 1880, was wrecked near Port Campbell at the entry to the Bass Strait off the Australian coast. Some days later, a crate found floating in the sea was, with great difficulty, hauled up the cliffs. When the crate was opened it was found to contain the peacock, still intact. For years it was kept by the Miller family; descendants of the company who were involved in the salvage of the wreck. It is now on display in the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum, Warrnambool, Australia.
Only twelve peacocks were produced and this particular one came into the Walker's collection in 1891. This model demonstrates Victorian style, ingenuity and great technical achievement and it is very special as it is one of very few Minton peacocks still known to exist.