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China painting swept across America in the late nineteenth century as one of the most prevalent decorative pottery techniques, especially among young women. Considered a respectable form of work and creative outlet for women, china painting incorporated the element of hand craft that helped elevate standards of design during a period of mass production and industrialism. The technique of china painting could be done conveniently at home or in large pottery settings. Also known as “mineral painting,” after its materials, a china painter used enamels, low firing colors produced from various mineral-oxides, as a “painting” medium on pre-fired porcelain white porcelain, also known as blanks. These blank porcelain pieces were often imported from European countries, France and Germany in particular, and came in a variety of dinner ware forms and vases. The china painting technique of decorating porcelain was popularized in America by the highly influential Englishman, Edward Lycett. Trained as a potter in the English tradition at Spode pottery in Staffordshire, England, Lycett moved to America in 1861, where he almost immediately gained prestigious commissions for the White House and Tiffany & Co. His devotion to experimenting with materials and teaching pottery techniques across the country established Edward Lycett as the “pioneer of china painting in America” during his own lifetime. Ultimately, the creativity fostered by the china painting movement and the influence of Edward Lycett launched the American ceramic industry towards new and exciting avenues of decorative pottery.
In 1890, at the age of 57, Edward Lycett left Faience Manufacturing when it was sold as an agent to a French porcelain company. This, however, was not a setback in Lycett’s ceramic venture. Although retired, Edward Lycett continued to follow his passion for new ceramic inventions. He soon moved to Atlanta, Georgia to work in his son’s studio where he and continued to experiment with clay and glaze materials as well as different firing techniques with William until he died in 1910 at the age of 77.
This porcelain vase, decorated by Edward Lycett with a “splash” white and brown glaze, represents the shift in an aesthetic taste from applied to decoration to simple glazed surfaces. Inspired by Chinese ceramic surfaces, displayed at international World’s Fairs, this vase would have been fired at very high temperatures in a controlled atmospheric kiln in order to achieve its surface. The bulbous body and cylindrical neck also recalls Chinese forms, but the engraved and embossed silver collar, depicting berries and leaves, presents a European touch.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
c. 1890
Lycett, Edward
place made
United States: Georgia, Atlanta
Physical Description
monochrome, brown (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
metal (overall material)
overall: 8 1/8 in x 5 1/2 in; 20.6375 cm x 13.97 cm
overall: 8 1/8 in x 5 1/2 in; 20.6375 cm x 13.97 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Edward Lycett
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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