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Tile - Classical Figures with Musical Instruments
  • Classical Figures with Musical Instruments
    Minton's China Works
  • Enlarge image

Classical Figures with Musical Instruments

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Stoke-on-Trent (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1875 (designed)
    1875-1890 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Minton's China Works (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Earthenware, with transfer-printed and gilded decoration

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 125, Edwin and Susan Davies Gallery, case 1

Object Type
The demand for wall tiles increased rapidly in the later 19th century. One of the most popular uses of tiles was in conjunction with fireplaces. While tiles had been used in this way for centuries, the new cast-iron grates that began to appear in this period were specifically designed to be set with tiles, which were fitted to metal panels that bolted onto the frame. Pictorial tiles were especially popular for this purpose, and many series of picture tiles were produced.

Production Methods
The mass production of tiles was greatly facilitated by the invention of dust-pressing in the 1840s. In this process tiles were formed by compacting powdered clay under high pressure in a screw-press. As many as 1,800 tiles a day could made on a single press, operated by two people. As well as increasing the speed with which tiles could be made, dust-pressing also ensured that a consistently high-quality product was achieved, much less prone to warping. The perfect regularity of this example is typical of tiles made in this way.

John Moyr Smith originally trained as an architect, but later became an artist, book illustrator and designer, as well as being editor of the magazine Decoration. He was a prolific designer of tiles, and worked primarily for Mintons Ltd. Many of his designs, including the series of 'Classical Figures with Musical Instruments' from which this tile comes, were used to decorate objects at Minton's Art Pottery Studio in London, as well for mass production of tiles at the Stoke-on-Trent factory. His other picture tile designs for Mintons include a series of scenes from Shakespeare and another illustrating 'Early English History'.

Place of Origin

Stoke-on-Trent (made)


ca. 1875 (designed)
1875-1890 (made)


Minton's China Works (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Earthenware, with transfer-printed and gilded decoration

Marks and inscriptions

The printed design includes the signature 'MOYR SMITH' on the edge of the medallion; back of the tile impressed with the globe mark and 'MINTON / STOKE UPON TRENT / WALBROOK LONDON' and 'MINTONS / CHINA WORKS / STOKE ON TRENT'


Height: 20.1 cm, Width: 20.1 cm, Depth: 1 cm

Object history note

From a series 'Classical Figures with Musical Instruments' designed by John Moyr Smith (born in Glasgow, 1839, died in 1912); made by Minton & Co., Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire

Labels and date

British Galleries:

Glazed tiles were a colourful form of decoration considered hygenic as they were easily washable. They were used in the home, but also in pubs, banks, churches and shops. They were used not only on the wall but also in objects such as fireplaces and washstands. [27/03/2003]


British Galleries; Ceramics; Tiles


Ceramics Collection

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