Christopher Dresser (British, 1834–1904)
H. 3 9/16 in. (9 cm), Gr. D. 6 3/8 in. (16.2 cm)
Gift of Robert L. Isaacson, 1993 (1993.179)
The form of this bowl is reminiscent of early Chinese bronze and ceramic three-legged vessels, while the stylized band of decoration is derived from Chinese ornamental motifs. The flattened, two-dimensional approach toward ornamentation echoes the design principles established by Owen Jones in his tome The Grammar of Ornament (1856) and later adopted by his disciple, Christopher Dresser. The central image is a derivation of the taotie, a decorative motif found on Chinese Bronze Age vessels. Dresser wrote in his Principles of Decorative Design (1873): "[T]he grotesque in ornament is the analogue of humour in literature I think it may be taken as a principle, that the further the grotesque is removed from an imitation of a natural object the better it is, provided that it be energetic and vigorous "
The brightly colored design of the ornamental band, in blue, light and dark green, red, yellow, and white on a pink ground, is outlined in gold in imitation of Chinese cloisonné enamels. This decorative technique was first developed in 1861 for porcelain by the French ceramicist Eugène Collinot (died 1882), and Dresser may have been one of the first designers to promote this method of decoration in England. The rich and exotic effect of the delineated colors on the porcelain made "cloisonné wares" one of the Minton Ceramic Factory's most popular styles in the 1860s and 1870s.
Producing high-quality ceramics in a wide range of popular styles, the Minton factory, founded in 1793, had become one of England's foremost ceramics manufacturers in the nineteenth century. While Dresser's work at Minton is not completely clear, he did act as art advisor to the company from around 1860 and was affiliated with it into the 1880s. During that time, he was also a freelance designer for the firm. His designs that were displayed at Minton's stands at the 1862 London International Exhibition and the 1867 Paris Exposition Universelle were reviewed quite favorably.