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Tile with scrolling fern design: EC.13-1941

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Object information

Current Location: In storage


Tile with scrolling fern design


Maker: William De Morgan & Co.
Designer: De Morgan, William Frend




Buff earthenware tile, the top slip-coated, painted in dark green with a scrolling fern pattern and glazed. One stem forms a slightly curving diagonal; to the left are two fronds curled up like snails, to the right is a single straight frond. Each frond carries many small leaves, which are painted without outlines, the paint thickening at the tips. One edge of the tile is chamfered, and the tile thickens towards the other side. The back and sides are not glazed. There is no mark


History note: Given by Mr H C Mossop

Legal notes

Given by Mr H C Mossop

Measurements and weight

Depth: 0.5 cm
Square: 7.6 cm
Square: 3 in

Place(s) associated

  • Merton Abbey ⪼ London ⪼ England

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Given (1941-03-26) by Mossop, H. C.


Late 19th Century
Circa 1882 CE - 1888 CE


This tile probably dates from around 1882-88, when De Morgan established his workshop at Merton Abbey, next door to Morris’s factory. But the design may be earlier : similar scrolling foliage is found on a ceramic jar produced by Morris in the early 1860s, which is thought to be designed by De Morgan. The tile is unusually small – De Morgan usually worked on 6x6 inch blanks (or sometimes 4-12 ins. – see Gaunt) – and the pattern appears to have been cut down from a four inch version, now in the V&A collection. However, the Fitzwilliam holds another, similarly coloured, three inch tile, which is marked ‘Merton Abbey’; possibly these were test pieces or samples. A similar four inch tile, also in green, is illustrated in a Morris & Co broadsheet offering ‘painted tiles for stoves, hearths, walls etc’; the tile price is two shillings. The design continues to appear on later tiles, often quartered with a flower, but in more stylised form. De Morgan made many, many designs for tiles and tile panels – some 820 are in the V&A collection.

William Frend De Morgan (1839-1917), now widely regarded as the most important ceramicist of the Arts & Crafts movement, also worked in stained glass and became a successful novelist. The son of a non-conformist mathematics professor, he became a close friend of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones and married the Pre-Raphaelite painter Evelyn Pickering (1855-1919), in 1887. As a ceramicist, De Morgan was primarily a designer/decorator and chemist, working on bought-in blanks or pots thrown to his design. He experimented widely with techniques and glazes, re-discovering methods for making and applying lustres and the colours of Iznik and Persian pottery and using them for a range of complex fantasy designs featuring ships, birds, flora and animals.

School or Style

Arts and Crafts (movement)

People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Decoration composed of underglaze colour ( green) clear glaze

Materials used in production

buff-coloured Earthenware

Techniques used in production

Slip-coating : Earthenware, slip-coated, painted from a pricked design and glazed.

Inscription or legends present

  • Text: 1941/13
  • Location: Reverse
  • Method of creation: Circular paper label inscribed in black
  • Type: Label

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: EC.13-1941
Primary reference Number: 15375
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Wednesday 15 July 2020 Last processed: Wednesday 24 March 2021

Associated departments & institutions

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

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2022) "Tile with scrolling fern design" Web page available at: Accessed: 2022-12-05 01:34:21

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