Published to accompany the first exhibition on ceramics of the Middle Ages anywhere for more than 50 years, this beautiful publication aims to demystify medieval art by highlighting the beauty and familiarity of ceramic pots and tiles from all over northern Europe, with an emphasis on 13th to early 16th-century England. Among the highlights presented here are three magnificent examples of the English jug, described in 1948 by the great historian of ceramics W.B. Honey in his Foreword to Bernard Rackham's pioneering book Medieval English Pottery, "quite simply, as the most beautiful pottery ever made in England. Formerly despised for their roughness and lack of superficial refinement, they are now recognized as worthy of comparison for their nobility of form with the early Chinese wares, so much admired today as the finest of all pottery." The Dartford Knight Jug is an example of the most celebrated of all medieval English pottery, dating to the late 13th century and made in Scarborough in Yorkshire. The Rye 'Royal Presentation' Jug, excavated from a kiln site in Rye in the 1930s, having laid there since its creation in the 14th century is a remarkable survival decorated in a curious scene of finely scratched sgraffito figures. And a massive shouldered jug from Kedleston Hall was described when it was discovered in 1862 as "probably the most important and interesting early mediaeval relic of Norman pottery which has ever been exhumed".Remaining intact in very small numbers - surviving only when retrieved as wasters from the excavated ruins of kilns or if they fell down wells into water - these medieval pots are indeed great works of art. The potter of the Middle Ages had only quite basic technology at his disposal but he used it with extraordinary skill and economy of means. Perhaps more than any other works of ark, they display the evidence of their manufacture: the splaying out of the ends of handles with the thumbprints to give a hold, the bases pressed down like frilled aprons; and wheel marks and ridges dug out with the fingertips. The bodies have beautiful colors from different local clays - red, brown, yellow, ash-grey to almost black, baked to a wide variety of shades in the primitive kilns. The heavy glazes are dipped or splashed on in a restricted range of greens and browns but can be incredibly supple and rich. Since the early 20th century, these wares have been prized not only by collectors of medieval art but also by Modernist artists and designers. This is particularly true in England where, for some reason, so many of the finest pots seem to have originated. This interest was intense at the time but it has become less so in recent decades. And though there has been much important research on archaeological investigation published, there has been little presentation or study on medieval pots as works of art. Informed by all the latest archaeological research, detailed examination of each work by specialist scholar Maureen Mellor is accompanied by exquisite new photography, revealing each remarkable pot and tile in all its glory.
Pots and Tiles of the Middle Ages