thomas minton

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Vase with mythological figures. On the lid the mythical figure of Prometheus. (Albert and Victoria Museum, designed and modelled by Victor Etienne Simyan, painted by Thomas Allen, made by Minton Co.) Photo Verjos.  

The Willow pattern is a distinctive and elaborate pattern used on ceramic kitchen/housewares. The pattern was popular in 18th century England, e.g. porcelain designed by Thomas Minton around 1790 and has been in use for over 200 years. The design was inspired by the china English imported from China during the late 18th century.

In order to promote sales of Minton’s Willow pattern, various stories were invented based on the elements of the design. The most famous story is about a Romantic Fable:

Once there was a wealthy Mandarin, who had a beautiful daughter (Koong-se). She had fallen in love with her father’s humble accounting assistant (Chang), angering her father (it was inappropriate for them to marry due to their difference in social class). He dismissed the young man and built a high fence around his house to keep the lovers apart. The Mandarin was planning for his daughter to marry a powerful Duke. The Duke arrived by boat to claim his bride, bearing a box of jewels as a gift. The wedding was to take place on the day the blossom fell from the willow tree.

On the eve of the daughter’s wedding to the Duke, the young accountant, disguised as a servant, slipped into the palace unnoticed. As the lovers escaped with the jewels, the alarm was raised. They ran over a bridge, chased by the Mandarin, whip in hand. They eventually escaped on the Duke’s ship to the safety of a secluded island, where they lived happily for years. But one day, the Duke learned of their refuge. Hungry for revenge, he sent soldiers, who captured the lovers and put them to death. The Gods, moved by their plight, transformed the lovers into a pair of doves (possibly a later addition to the tale, since the birds do not appear on the earliest willow pattern plates).