Saturday, June 19, 2010

Victorian Things: Galleon Tile Panel by William De Morgan

Galleon Tile Panel
William De Morgan (1839 - 1917)
Medium: painted earthenware tiles in oak frame
Dimensions: 60.5 x 153 cm
Created: De Morgan's Sands End Pottery in Fulham, London

Consisting of 40 handpainted six-inch-square tiles backed by unglazed stoneware tiles, this gorgeous panel depicts a colorful and exotic scene of sailing ships, birds, and cavorting sea creatures in a tropical setting [click on it for a larger version]. It was one of twelve designs created by William De Morgan (DNB bio here; Wiki bio here) between 1882 and 1900 for the luxury liners of the Peninsular and Oriental (P&O) Steam Navigation Company. Although all of the installed panels have been lost, four duplicate sets are known to survive, including this one, which was acquired in 2006 by the De Morgan Foundation in London from a private American collection. (The others are held by the Southwark Art Collection.)

The galleon panel, comprising what De Morgan called "two flank panels [of 20 tiles each] -- crusaders in wessels [sic] on the sea," was most likely designed for the SS Malta. Look closely at the ships' pennants. De Morgan has slapped on some ersatz heraldry: in addition to symbols associated with the Christian crusaders, he also uses (on the ship at right) the star and crescent, that potent symbol of the Christians' enemy, the Ottomans.

The De Morgan Foundation's website, which is in the process of being updated, offers some additional information about the panel here.

From 2002 until last year the foundation's collection of more than 1,000 ceramic pieces and 500 paintings and drawings was exhibited at the De Morgan Centre in southwest London. The centre closed to the public when the foundation lost its lease in a library operated by the Wandsworth Borough Council. A new venue for the collection, which is truly one of the nation's cultural treasures, is being sought.


Hermes said...

Thank you. Never seen that before, and I really admire his work. Fantastic.

Dr Kristan Tetens said...

Isn't it glorious? De Morgan is one of my absolute favorites.

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