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Vase and cover

  • Place of origin:

    Stoke-on-Trent (made)

  • Date:

    1851 (exhibited)
    ca. 1851 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Charles Meigh & Co. (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Stoneware, with relief moulding and painted decoration in enamels and gilding

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 122, case 3 []

Object Type
This is one of two extravagant vases (with Musuem number CIRC.374&A-1963) designed to be solely exhibition pieces. They were never intended for general production as they were so large and expensive to make. However, they functioned as advertisements for the firm's skills. Meigh's may also have hoped that the Royal Family would have admired their exhibition vases sufficiently to buy them.

Charles Meigh & Son, of Old Hall Pottery, Hanley, was a family company which had begun in about 1790, and later became known simply as Old Hall. Most of the firm's products were earthenwares and stone china of a smaller more functional nature, although porcelain and Parian were exhibited at the Great Exhibition, where the company won a prize medal.

Subjects Depicted
These vases were popular exhibits at the Great Exhibition because of their finely painted views of the Crystal Palace on one side, and patriotic portraits of the Queen and Prince Consort on the other. To our eyes, these paintings are rather strangely juxtaposed with moulded gilt fronds, foliage and birds, but they demonstrate the prevalent Victorian interest in natural history and naturalistic forms.

Physical description

The vase is decorated with a portrait of Prince Albert on one side and an interior view of the Crystal Palace on the other.

Place of Origin

Stoke-on-Trent (made)


1851 (exhibited)
ca. 1851 (made)


Charles Meigh & Co. (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Stoneware, with relief moulding and painted decoration in enamels and gilding


Height: 101.6 cm, Width: 53.3 cm

Object history note

One of a pair made to commemorate the Great Exhibition of 1851. Manufactured by Charles Meigh & Son, in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Purchased for £420 (with Circ.374&A-1963, its pair) from Kenway Antiques, Earl's Court, London.

Historical significance: The vase shows the eclectic use of historical styles during the early Victorian period as well as the prevalent interest in naturalistic plant forms which had emerged partly as a result of the discoveries made in the field of natural history at this time in the use of motifs like the swirling tendril leaves rising up the side of the vase from the base.

Historical context note

This vase and its pair were made as exhibition pieces for display at the Great Exhibition of 1851. The intense competition for recognition and sales at exhibitions prompted manufacturers to invest in the development of new techniques and to employ the best designers, modellers and decorators to produce pieces specifically for show. Such exhibition pieces were never intended for general manufacture as they were extremely expensive to produce. They functioned as advertisements for the firm as they were often described in journals and magazines.

Descriptive line

Vase and cover, with relief moulding and painted decoration in enamels and gilding, with a potrait of Prince Albert and a view of the interior of the Crystal Palace. English, 1851. Made by Charles Meigh & Son.

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

See Object Information file in Ceramics and Glass Section office.
Chen, xie jun. World Exposition Museum. Shanghai: Shanghai wen yi chu ban she, 2010 ISBN 9787532140503/G.107. 95,97,99,105,pp. ill.
Vikutoria-chō no eikō: bin'ei no jidai no eikoku no seikatsu bunka. Arts of the Victorians: catalogue of a Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition travelling in Japan. Osaka : NHK Kinki Media Plan,1992.
Geoffrey A. Godden, 'A unique pair of Exhibition vases' in Connoisseur, April 1963

Labels and date

British Galleries:
These vases were designed to show the technical accomplishment of their manufacturer.Their topical decoration includes portraits of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and images of the Crystal Palace. The vases helped to advertise the manufacturer and gave journals and magazines eye-catching examples to describe and illustrate. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

Exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851.
One of a pair with CIRC.374-1963.


Stoneware; Enamel


Painting (image-making); Gilding; Modelling (forming)


ELISE; Ceramics; Vases; Royalty; Great Exhibition; British Galleries


Ceramics Collection

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