Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.



  • Place of origin:

    Burton upon Trent (made)

  • Date:

    1892-1896 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Dresser, Christopher, born 1834 - died 1904 (designer)
    William Ault Pottery (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Buff coloured earthenware, with a yellow glaze

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 139, The Curtain Foundation Gallery, case 35, shelf 3

Object Type
This curious vase, with its narrow neck and apparently idiosyncratic design, functions less as a container for flowers and more as an ornament in its own right. It is made of cast earthenware, the shape is Ault's No. 318 and the vivid yellow is one of the pottery's most distinctive glazes. It was made as a mass-produced item, in several different colours.

Design & Designing
Dresser was interested in forms and ornament from a wide range of sources - from Medieval English to South American to Japanese and Chinese. He borrowed from all of these but also invented freely. These smiling, slightly menacing heads are perhaps slightly reminiscent of Chinese lion-dogs or monster masks, but with elongated 'horns'. Here they have no precise ancestry. Similar smiling animal faces appear in Dresser's designs of other creatures, including cats and toads or frogs.

The vase was designed between 1892 and 1896, most probably in 1893. This is relatively late in Dresser's career and by this time there was a well-established market for exotic art wares. Nevertheless, Dresser was highly commercial and was extremely shrewd about interpreting his more adventurous designs into a form suitable for art-conscious yet polite middle-class drawing rooms.

Physical description

Vase of buff earthenware with a circular, squat body on a pedestal, four grotesque handles, a long cylindrical neck and a flared mouth. The yellow glaze is worn through in places.

Place of Origin

Burton upon Trent (made)


1892-1896 (made)


Dresser, Christopher, born 1834 - died 1904 (designer)
William Ault Pottery (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Buff coloured earthenware, with a yellow glaze

Marks and inscriptions

'254': possibly the mould number
base; impressing; Ault Pottery; ca. 1892 -1896

'Chr Dresser': designer's mark
base; impressing; Ault Pottery; ca. 1892 - 1896


Height: 22.1 cm, Width: 16.1 cm, Depth: 17.0 cm

Object history note

Designed by Christopher Dresser (born in Glasgow, 1834, died in Mulhouse, France, 1904) and probably made at the Ault Pottery, Swadlincote, near Burton-on-Trent, Derbyshire

Historical significance: Dresser was inspired by a wide range of historic and foreign prototypes, including Gothic, Japanese, Chinese, Peruvian and Egyptian. Dresser drew from all these sources to produce something quite original. This vase reveals many sources, including oriental bronzes, Awaji pottery and mediaeval grotesques. Dresser was also interested in geometry and applied a scientific interest in colour and proportions in his designs. Here the decoration is very simple but the play between the square and the circle provides extra interest in the form.

Historical context note

Unlike Morris, Dresser was fully reconciled to designing for industrial production - indeed his name or signature is often found next to the manufacturer's mark. He designed furniture, textiles, wallpaper, linoleum, metalwork, glass and ceramics for industry. His designs for ceramics for the Linthorpe and Ault potteries encouraged a broader general interest in contemporary Art Pottery as collectible objects.

'The Studio' in 1899 praised Dresser for raising 'the national levels of design, not by producing costly bric-a-brac for millionaires, but by dealing with products within the reach of the middle classes if not the masses themselves'

Descriptive line

Yellow glazed earthenware vase. English, ca. 1892-96. Designed by Christopher Dresser and made by the Ault Pottery.

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

See Object Information file in Ceramics and Glass Section office.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Dresser was inspired by a wide range of historic and foreign prototypes. He studied examples in London museums and international exhibitions. The form and decoration of this vase are based on Chinese and ancient Peruvian pottery. Dresser has made the design his own by adding the yellow glaze and varying the details. [27/03/2003]
Designed by Christopher Dresser, made by William Ault & Co., Ault Pottery, Swadlincote, Derbyshire, England,

C.26-1971 [23/05/2008]


Earthenware; Glaze


ELISE; Ceramics; Vases; British Galleries; Scotland


Ceramics Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.