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  • Place of origin:

    Holíc (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1760 - 1770 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tin-glazed earthenware with painted decoration

  • Credit Line:


  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 3, case CA7

Elaborate centrepieces were a feature of eighteenth-century fine dining tables. Some were made to accompany equally colourful and elaborate tureens, sauceboats and salts, but this one was made for the dessert service of fruit, creams and confectionery. Figural features are often found on earthenware and porcelain dining items, and themes of Greek and Roman gods and goddesses were very popular. The tin-glazed earthenware centrepiece here has a figure of Triton forming the stand for a dish which probably held sweetmeats or possibly fruits. Triton was the son of Poseidon, god of the sea and his consort Amphritite. Triton is usually depicted as a merman, half man and half fish.

This Triton centrepiece was produced at the tin-glazed earthenware factory in Holíc. Holíc -- or ‘Holitsch’ in Hungarian -- was formerly part of the Hungarian Empire. It is now in Slovakia, independent from Czechoslovakia since 1993. Holíc is a town on the western border of the country and has a pottery-making tradition dating back to at least the 17th century. In 1743 a tin glazed earthenware factory was established under the patronage of Francis I, consort of the Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa.

With their bold, swirling forms and bright colouring, many of the products of the Holíc factory bear a strong similarity to Strasbourg earthenware, particularly to those of the Paul Hannong workshop. Strasbourg was part of the Duchy of Lorraine, Francis’ ancestral lands. Although Francis relinquished his right to the Duchy upon his marriage to the empress, he still retained contact with his ancestral lands and it is likely that he encouraged workers from Strasbourg to assist in the establishment of his tin-glazed earthenware works in Holíc.

Physical description

Bearded merman with a curled tail enhanced with scales in relief, his feet modelled as fins, kneeling on a shaped conch, holding another conch with both hands above his head, the upper conch with two apertures.

Place of Origin

Holíc (made)


ca. 1760 - 1770 (made)


Unknown (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Tin-glazed earthenware with painted decoration

Marks and inscriptions

Holitscher Herrschaft
in black


Height: 303 mm, Width: 353 mm, Depth: 223 mm

Object history note

At the time of acquisition, this was described as 'one of a pair' and considered to have been made in Strasbourg. It was dated to 1750-60. It was purchased from the Aigoin Collection.
Subsequently, it was reattributed as 'Hungarian (Holitsch), middle 18th century'.

In May 1984 Dr. Jana Kybalová of the Decorative Arts Museum in Prague said it was Holitsch like the one in Brno in the Kunstgewerbemuseum. It bears a 'HF' mark in blue.
There are other examples in the decorative arts museum in Budapest and in the castle in Cervená Lhota.

A Triton centrepiece sold at Christie's London, King Street (2 November 1998) which bears a black 'HH' mark and is dated to about 1770.
Another Triton centrepiece sold at Christie's Amsterdam (14-15 December 2004). That one bore a mark 'Hf' in blue and was dated to about 1760.

The Holíc (Holitsch in Hungarian) factory was founded under the patronage of Francis of Lorraine, consort of Empress Maria Theresa. Fayence production started in 1743 on a small scale. Production began to increase dramatically from about 1750. Some of the Holíc fayence pieces, such as this Triton centrepiece, bear a strong resemblance to Strasbourg fayence and may be due to that workshop being part of the lands of Francis.

The products were commonly marked with a 'H' (for 'Holitsch') and 'HF' in blue (for 'Holitscher Fabrik') and 'HH' in black (for 'Holitscher Herrschaft').

Historical context note

A Triton centrepiece was sold at Christie's, London, King Street (2 November 1998) which had a black 'HH' mark.
Another Triton centrepiece sold at Christie's Amsterdam (14-15 December 2004). That one bore a mark 'Hf' in blue and was dated to about 1760.

Descriptive line

Centrepiece in the form of Triton holding a shell. Earthenware covered with a tin glaze and painted in colours. Slovakia (Holic), about 1760 to 1770.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kybalová, Jana, Holitscher Fayence, Deutscher Kunstverlag, 1970
(fig.71) Triton centrepiece from Brno Kuntsgewerbemuseum. Blue 'HF' mark.
Narodni Malini, Holicska Fajans, Prague, 1965
Sladek, Elizabeth, Ceremonies, Feasts, Costumes. Viennese Porcelain Figures in the Age of Maria Theresa, Vienna, 2007
Zeremonien. Feste. Kostume. Die Wiener Porzellanfigur in der Regierungszeit Maria Theresias, Liechtenstein Museum, 2007
Herwig Guratzsch and Claudia Kanowski, eds., Fayencen aus dem Ostseeraum. Keramische Kostbarkeiten des Rokoko, Munich, 2003
Akos Kiss, Baroque pottery in Hungary, faience of Holics and Tata, Corvina Press, 1966
(p.26) Illustrates a Triton centrepiece
Karoly Csanyi, Geschichte der ungarischen Keramik, des Porzellans und ihre Marken, Budapest, 1954
fig. 17 Triton centrepiece

Labels and date

Made in Holitsch, Hungary (now Holíc in Slovakia) mid 18th century
Mark: 'HH', in black
Tin-glazed earthenware

469-1870 [16/07/2008]
Centrepiece in the form of Triton holding a shell, Slovakia (Holic), about 1740-60
469-1870 [2010 (TAB)]




Ceramics; Faience; Earthenware


Ceramics Collection

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