Colorful and wildly imaginative, the lead-glazed earthenware known as majolica was one of the most significant innovations in nineteenth-century ceramics. In this lecture, Dr. Laura Microulis, Research Curator at Bard Graduate Center (BGC), will briefly review the global phenomenon of majolica while previewing BGC’s upcoming Majolica Mania exhibition. She will then explore the pivotal role of Trenton’s potteries in bringing this popular ware to the US, from the American pottery displays at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia to the financial demise of the last majolica factory in Trenton in 1897. Microulis will demonstrate the importance of immigrant craftsmen in building the ceramics industry in the US, as well as how new foods and fashions for the table, Aesthetic movement principles, and widespread interest in botany impacted the design and decoration of majolica.

Majolica Mania: Transatlantic Pottery in England and the United States, 1850–1915, which will be on view at Bard Graduate Center Gallery from September 24, 2021 through January 3, 2022, is the first major public display of this material in nearly four decades. Featuring over 350 objects, from domestic vessels to monumental pieces shown at the World’s Fairs, the exhibition and accompanying three-volume catalogue consider the principal designers and manufacturers of the ware and its broad

Meet the Speaker:

Dr. Laura Microulis is a Research Curator at the Bard Graduate Center in New York. A material culture scholar with a specialization in nineteenth-century decorative arts and design, her past published work has focused on the recovery of institutional histories, the nature of patronage relationships, and the narrative life cycles of objects and interiors. Most recently, she was a project director for the forthcoming exhibition and publication, Majolica Mania: Transatlantic Pottery in England and the United States, 1850–1915.

Bard Graduate Center is a research institute in New York City that studies the human past through objects, from those created for obvious aesthetic value to ordinary things that are part of everyday life. Faculty members are drawn from the fields of art history, history, anthropology, archaeology, and materials science. Alumni of BGC’s highly regarded MA and PhD programs hold curatorial and academic positions at important institutions around the world. And BGC’s summer programs for teens and for advanced undergraduate students expose emerging scholars to its interdisciplinary, object-based approach. Founded by Dr. Susan Weber in 1993, Bard Graduate Center is an academic unit of Bard College through which it is accredited and a member of the Association of Research Institutes in Art History (ARIAH).

The Potteries of Trenton Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the study and appreciation of Trenton’s ceramic industry by gathering and preserving information related to the industry, sponsoring research projects, seminars and conferences, and promoting industry-related heritage tourism activities. Membership is open to all, for more information, visit:

The New Jersey State Museum is a center of cultural, educational, and scientific engagement, and inspires innovation and lifelong learning through collections, research, exhibitions and programs in science, history and art.

Joseph S. Mayer, Arsenal Pottery. Pattern sheet, 1885. Colored woodcut and pencil mounted in a bound album. Huston Bennett scrapbook and catalog, MS 3236, H. Furlong Baldwin Library, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore.