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'Design' tile: C.14-1983

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Object information

Current Location: In storage


'Design' tile


Factory: Minton Hollins & Co.
unidentified artist




Earthenware, transfer-printed, hand-painted and glazed, in painted wood frame.

Square, off-white, dust-pressed earthenware tile. Transfer printed design shows a seated allegorical figure of ‘Design’ holding a mirror and a pair of dividers, leans on a decorated plinth. In the background are a sculpted nude female figure and dolphin on a plinth (representing sculpture) and a domed building (representing architecture); in the foreground, a palette and brushes (representing painting). The figures and objects are filled with shaded blocks of colour. The woman’s dress is green, flowing over it is a magenta cloak or shawl. Her shoes and hair, and the plinth, are brown. The back of the tile is pressed into coffered squares, unglazed.


History note: Purchased from Mrs Joan Eve, Cambridge.

Legal notes

Purchased with the J.R.V. Smyth Fund.

Measurements and weight

Height: 20.7 cm
Width: 20.7 cm

Place(s) associated

  • Stoke ⪼ Staffordshire ⪼ England

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bought (1983-06-13) by Eve, Joan


19th Century, Late#
Circa 1875 CE - 1880 CE


Minton, founded in 1793, originally produced blue printed earthenware and, later, creamware, bone china and other products, particularly tableware. From the mid 1830s, new lines in encaustic and printed tiles, figures and ornamental wares were introduced, and in 1844 the factory was commissioned to produce floor tiles to Pugin’s designs for the new Palace of Wedminster. The 1840s also saw the introduction of dust-pressed tiles, made by pressing powdered clay into a moulding box, building on a process patented by Richard Prosser for making buttons. Dust-pressed tiles dry more quickly and are less likely to warp. Moreover, by introducing dies into the moulding box, a single press can produce relief decoration and a moulded back - a characteristic feature of dust-pressed tiles, which aids bonding with mortar. In 1845, Herbert Minton took two nephews, Colin Minton Campbell and Michael Daintry Hollins, into partnership. In 1868, following a dispute, Hollins left to set up a tile works trading as Minton, Hollins & Co., which continued successfully into 1950s, before merging with Johnson tiles. Mintons also continues to produce tiles.

This tile is one of a series of allegorical figures representing The Arts. Three are in the Fitzwilliam Collection: ‘Sculpture’, ‘Design’ and ‘Architecture’, there may also have been others, perhaps including ‘Music’. The series was also produced in 6 inch tiles. These three tiles may originally have been displayed as plaques or inset as panels into a cabinet or washstand. The series is linked by a unified colour-scheme, similarly drawn and clothed figures and recurring attributes. The allegorical theme and dress are classical, but the setting, pose and bold colours give the tiles a more modern air. Although examples of this design are rare, tile series were popular at the time, with subjects ranging from ‘agriculture’ to ‘musical instruments’; another version of Arts and Sciences, designed by John Moyr Smith for Mintons China Works in c.1892, shows more classically posed figures.

School or Style


People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Decoration composed of enamels ( green, magenta and brown)

Materials used in production


Techniques used in production

Dust-pressing : Dust-pressed earthenware moulded on one side, transfer-printed and hand-painted.

Inscription or legends present

Inscription present: in spaces of moulded grid pattern

  • Method of creation: Pressed in relief
  • Type: Mark
  • Text: 3
  • Method of creation: Pressed in relief
  • Type: Mark
  • Text: 511
  • Method of creation: Painted in dark magenta
  • Type: Mark

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.14-1983
Primary reference Number: 15307
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Wednesday 15 July 2020 Last processed: Friday 16 February 2024

Associated departments & institutions

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

Citation for print

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "'Design' tile" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-06-22 01:42:21

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{{cite web|url= |title='Design' tile |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2024-06-22 01:42:21|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

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