Lovers of pottery from across the world are sure to flock to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London over the next few months as one of the most important collections of English popular pottery comes to the world’s largest museum of applied arts.
The collection, put together by English philanthropist Henry Willett, who was born in 1823 and died in 1905, showcases over 2,000 pieces of Sussex pottery that range from 1600 to 1900 in manufacture date.
Willett, however, didn’t just like collecting pottery for its beauty and quirkiness, but also because he believed that the items people used in their everyday lives or displayed on their mantelpieces actually told the story of the country.
In fact, the collection, which was presented to the town of Brighton in 1903 and now forms an integral part of the collection at Brighton Museum, was catalogued under 23 different themes by the collector. These include Royalty & Loyalty, Crime, Music, Soldiers & Sailors, Poetry, Science & Literature, Domestic Incidents, and Conviviality & Teetotalism.
Not the whole collection has been moved to the V&A, but hundreds of pieces have. Among the highlights are a stunning model of George Wombwell’s Menagerie, which dates to 1830; a bust of Benjamin Caunt from 1844; a cat-shaped jug from 1672; and a flask in the shape of a bear holding a figure of Napoleon Bonaparte from 1812.
The exhibition is already open and runs until Sunday, September 29, 2024. Entrance to the V&A museum and the Henry Willett’s Collection of Popular Pottery exhibition is free.