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Swan Vase: C.47-1972

Object information

Current Location: Gallery 27 (Glaisher)


Swan Vase


Designer: Crane, Walter
Factory: Maw & Co.




Earthenware vase, decorated in ruby lustre on a cream ground. The low-swelling body is shaped as a galley; its prow rises up as the arched head of a swan, while the stern curves over in the form of a fish tail. The sides of the galley are decorated on one side with two swimming dolphins, and on the other with a mermaid and an anchor. On the upper body of the vase are the painted figures of two sailors, one on each side, one rowing, the other accompanied by a dog and pulling up an anchor chain. The body rises into a tall, concave neck, which opens to a broad, everted rim; neck and rim are painted with vertical stripes and the inside of the neck is red lustre. The prow and stern of the galley rest on either side of the neck, forming handles. The underside is flat and fully decorated, with four wavy circles around Crane’s large monogram, crossed by three straight lines which curve up to the prow and stern. The vase is heavy for its size.


History note: Charles and Lavinia Handley-Read; purchased from Thomas Stainton, executor of the Handley-Read Estate

Legal notes

Purchased with the Perceval Fund and Grant-in-Aid from the Victoria and Albert Museum

Measurements and weight

Depth: 20 cm
Depth: 7.875 in
Height: 23.3 cm
Height: 9.125 in
Width: 24.2 cm
Width: 9.5 in

Place(s) associated

  • Jackfield

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bought (1972-10-19) by Handley-Read Estate


19th Century, Late#
1889 CE - 1901 CE


Walter Crane (1845-1915), was a wood-engraver, painter, illustrator and writer on art, an active socialist and the first president of both the Art Workers’ Guild and the Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society. He was a pioneer of Art Nouveau style, inspired by natural forms, and designed dishes, vases, plaques and tiles for Maw & Co., Pilkington’s and Wedgwood. There exist other examples of vases with this design. In an 'Art Journal' article, 1898, Crane wrote: ‘I designed a set of vases for lustre ware, giving the sections to the thrower and painting on the biscuit the designs, which were copied on duplicate vases in lustre’. Maw & Company, established 1850, continues today as a manufacturer of encaustic and geometric floor tiles and modelled, tube-lined and other decorated wall tiles, using traditional craft skills and supplying some of the world’s most prestigious buildings. By the 1880s, it was the world’s largest ceramic tile company, producing some 20 million pieces per year. The lustred red glaze used here was also employed for tile painting.

School or Style

Arts and Crafts (movement)
Art Nouveau

People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Decoration composed of lustre ( ruby red)
Neck Diameter 13 cm Diameter 5.125 in

Materials used in production


Techniques used in production


Inscription or legends present

  • Text: W’and a crane and encircled by a ‘C’
  • Location: Underside of base
  • Method of creation: Painted in ruby lustre
  • Type: Monogram

Inscription present: painted between lines which intersect Crane's monogram.

  • Text: MAW & CO LIMITED
  • Location: Underside of base
  • Method of creation: Painted in ruby lustre
  • Type: Mark

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.47-1972
Primary reference Number: 127133
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Monday 18 December 2023 Last processed: Monday 18 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

Citation for print

This record can be cited in the Harvard Bibliographic style using the text below:

The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Swan Vase" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-07-21 16:53:58

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{{cite web|url= |title=Swan Vase |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2024-07-21 16:53:58|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

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