Skip to main content

Snake handled vase: C.42-1972

An image of Vase

Terms of use

These images are provided for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons License (BY-NC-ND). To license a high resolution version, please contact our image library who will discuss fees, terms and waivers.

Download this image

Creative commons explained - what it means, how you can use our's and other people's content.

Alternative views

Object information

Current Location: In storage


Snake handled vase


Production: Minton & Co.
Designer: Stevens, Alfred George




Cream earthenware vase, moulded with two modelled handles, transfer printed and painted in white and deep blue.

Amphora shape on flared, conical foot with a narrow ribbed neck and everted rim. Two handles modelled as snakes, coil on the rim and curve down to meet the rounded shoulders. Painted in dark blue on a white ground with a frieze of putti playing on swags linked by two bearded masks below the handles. The frieze is bordered by Renaissance-style scrolling foliage and motifs, also on the neck and foot; the handles have a blue snake-skin pattern painted onto the cream clay. The underside has an unglazed foot-rim and a deep indentation into the stem.


History note: Charles & Lavinia Handley-Read; according to label, purchased for £4.00, Portobello [Road, London?].

Legal notes

From the Charles & Lavinia Handley-Read Collection, bought from the Perceval Fund and the V & A grant-in-aid fund.

Measurements and weight

Height: 29 cm
Width: 14 cm

Place(s) associated

  • Stoke ⪼ Staffordshire ⪼ England

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bought (1972-06-17) by Stainton, Thomas


Production date: AD 1864 : marked; design produced 1861


Alfred Stevens (1817-1875) was a painter, sculptor and designer. He spent several years studying in Italy, before working for Minton c.1859-1862. This design, which he originally produced in 1861, illustrates his interest in echoing the decoration of Italian Renaissance maiolica. Stevens produced other similar designs using this shape of vase, but he may not have designed the shape as it was in use before he joined the company.

Minton launched wares ‘coloured in the Majolica style’ at the Great Exhibition of 1851, to great acclaim. The new product took inspiration from the earlier Italian maiolica, tin-glazed earthenware with painted decoration, but used brightly coloured lead-glazes and generally favoured sculptural forms rather than finely painted decoration. A few Minton designers, however, such as Stevens and the Minton Art Director, Léon Arnoux, sought closer imitation using enamels and shapes based on Urbino models (as here), though such work was never so widely produced.

Minton, founded in 1793 by Thomas Minton (1765-1836), originally produced blue printed earthenware and, later, creamware, bone china and other products, particularly tableware. Taking over in 1836, his son Herbert Minton revolutionised production methods and introduced new lines in encaustic and printed tiles, figures and ornamental wares. In 1858 the business passed to Herbert’s son, Colin Minton Campbell, who continued the expansion.The early business traded under various names, from 1845 it was known as Minton & Co. and from 1873 as Mintons Ltd.

School or Style

Renaissance Revival

People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Decoration composed of enamels ( deep blue, white)

Materials used in production

cream Earthenware
Clear glaze

Techniques used in production

Moulding : Moulded and modelled earthenware, transfer printed, glazed and painted with enamels.

Inscription or legends present

  • Text: MINTON
  • Location: Underside of base
  • Method of creation: Impressed
  • Type: Factory mark

Inscription present: a horizontal line crossing 'Z'

  • Location: Underside of base
  • Method of creation: Impressed
  • Text: A
  • Location: Underside of base
  • Method of creation: Impressed
  • Type: Date mark
  • Text: 658
  • Location: Underside of base
  • Method of creation: Impressed
  • Type: Mark
  • Text: B
  • Location: Underside of base
  • Method of creation: Impressed
  • Type: Mark
  • Text: Vase, MINTON, designed by Alfred Stevens. Date mark [crossed Z] for 1864. cf. H. Wakefield Victorian Pottery pl.42: an almost identical vase in V&A, same date £4.00 Portobello Dec. 1966. / See Stannus. H Alfred Stevens and his Work, London, 1891, pl. XLVII - the design for the frieze of this vase with putti, masks etc. reproduced (also details in other plates of V & A M Minton-Stevens vases).
  • Location: Underside of base
  • Method of creation: Two rectangular paper labels handwritten in black ink
  • Type: Label
  • Text: Ex Leicester, The Victorian Vision of Italy, Cat. No. 137
  • Location: Loose inside vase
  • Method of creation: Rectangular paper label, typewritten
  • Type: Label

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.42-1972
Primary reference Number: 75036
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

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

The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Snake handled vase" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-04-22 23:49:17

Citation for Wikipedia

To cite this record on Wikipedia you can use this code snippet:

{{cite web|url= |title=Snake handled vase |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2024-04-22 23:49:17|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

API call for this record

To call these data via our API (remember this needs to be authenticated) you can use this code snippet:

Bootstrap HTML code for reuse

To use this as a simple code embed, copy this string:

<div class="text-center">
    <figure class="figure">
        <img src=""
        alt="Snake handled vase"
        class="img-fluid" />
        <figcaption class="figure-caption text-info">Snake handled vase</figcaption>

More objects and works of art you might like

Suggested products from Curating Cambridge

You might be interested in this...

Sign up for updates

Updates about future exhibitions and displays, family activities, virtual events & news. You'll be the first to know...