Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland (2023)

Underglaze Painted Earthenwares

Defining Attributes

Refined, white-bodied English earthenware decorated with underglaze painted motifs, either in blue or combinations of colors. Date ranges can be assigned to these wares based on colors used, styles of the painting, and vessel shapes.


The chronology of painted earthenwares can be related to technological changes in clay bodies, glazes, and temperature-stable colors. Early underglaze decoration on creamware was generally mottled because the lead glaze affected the stability of the mineral colors. These are sometimes called clouded or mottled wares, and other examples include the tortoiseshell or Rockingham style of glazes. In addition, there were colored glazes used to cover broad areas of molded relief decoration on the cauliflower, pineapple and other fruit wares. Along with these early types of underglaze decoration, there were enamel painted patterns, which were on top of the glaze.

In the mid-1770s, new materials, including kaolin clay and Gowan stone from Cornwall, were being introduced into the glaze formulas. These new ingredients, as well as the fritting of glazes, produced a stable environment in which painted patterns were less susceptible to being absorbed into the glaze and thus stayed in place on the vessel. This led to a major shift in the underglaze painting of wares that can be seen in archaeological assemblages. The great majority of creamware that archaeologists see is rarely decorated, while what has been labeled “pearlware” is almost never undecorated. Thus, pearlware did not replace creamware; decoration replaced creamware.

Summary: Underglaze Painted Patterns

Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland (1)

1.Development of China glaze cobalt blue painted patterns c. 1775 – 1810. Click here to view examples.
Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland (2) 2. Introduction of polychrome painted floral patterns with minimal use of cobalt c.1795 to c.1815. These colors used oxides of copper, antimony, iron, manganese, and other metals under a blue-tinted pearlware glaze. Click here to view examples.

Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland (3)

3. Period of cobalt blue painted patterns with large brush strokes c. 1815-1830. Early in this period, these patterns are under a blue-tinted pearlware glaze, with the amount of blue tinting declining as a whiteware was being developed. Click here to view examples.
Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland (4) 4. Polychrome painted wares with an increasing use of cobalt blue c. 1815 to 1830. Later in this period, the amount of blue tinting declines as a whiteware was being developed. Click here to view examples.

Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland (5)

5. Introduction of the chrome colors that become common after 1830. Red in flowers and black stem lines are two common indications that chrome-based colors are being used. Click here to view examples.
Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland (6) 6. Simplification of the painted patterns to require less brush stokes, cutting down on the cost of production as prices were falling. Sprig painted wares (very small floral painted patterns) began showing up around 1835 and remain common until the 1870s and possibly later. Click here to view examples.

Enamelled Creamware (c. 1775-1825)
Because enamel painted patterns are fired at a lower temperature than that of the glaze, the colors are not subject to being partly absorbed into the glaze. Thus, enamel painted decoration is more controlled than patterns painted under the glaze. Lower firing temperatures for the enamel painting also meant that a wider range of colors were available for overglaze decoration, as not all mineral colors can survive the temperature necessary to develop a glaze. In addition to a greater range of colors, overglaze decorations had the advantage of not being affected by the acidity of the glaze, and thus were much clearer in their detail. But this advantage came at a price: overglaze decoration was subject to being worn off in use and thus was not as permanent as underglaze decoration. Overglaze decoration needed an additional firing to fix the colors, so they were more expensive than underglaze decorated wares. Enamel painted wares were more common in the last quarter of the eighteenth century; by the early nineteenth century they began to be replaced by underglaze painted wares.

A two-volume work on the Leeds Pottery has reproduced eight of their pattern and shape books in full color, depicting hundreds of enamel painted patterns illustrating the wide range of colors and styles used to paint Leeds creamware (Griffin 2005). These patterns date from the last quarter of the eighteenth century into the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Many of these patterns were later adopted as underglaze patterns and probably reproduced by a number of potters. Underglaze painted patterns were far more common than enamel painted patterns, particularly after around 1800.

Blue Painted China Glaze Period (c. 1775-1810)
Blue was the dominant underglaze color for China glaze and the early pearlwares from c. 1775 until around 1795. During this period, most of the blue painting was in a chinoiserie style (Miller and Hunter 2001). The development of underglaze printing in the mid-1780s appears to have played a role in limiting the painting of chinoiserie-style landscapes on tableware, but blue painted China glaze teawares appear to have continued to be made until ca. 1810.

Polychrome Painted Patterns (c. 1795-1830)
The volatility of prices and problems with the supply of cobalt due to the Napoleonic Wars appear to have a relationship to the introduction and increased production of underglaze painted polychrome wares that began appearing in the mid-1790s (and to the decline in blue painted wares). Polychrome painted wares from the period c. 1795 to c. 1815 often do not have any cobalt blue in the patterns, or when it is present, it is rarely the dominant color. These wares used oxides of copper green, antimony yellow, iron brown, and manganese brown, because they were often under a blue-tinted “pearlware”.

Polychrome painted wares with an increasing use of cobalt blue
c. 1815 to 1830. Later in this period, the amount of blue tinting declines as a whiteware was being developed.

Blue Floral Painted Pearlware (c. 1815-1830)
Following the end of the Napoleonic Wars, cobalt blue painted wares again become common. This period’s blue floral painted patterns with large brush strokes were unlike the earlier, smaller floral painted patterns. While there was a dramatic increase in the use of cobalt blue, there is very little evidence of chinoiserie-style painted patterns following the War of 1812. Their place seems to have been taken by the printed patterns, such as the blue willow and others in a Chinese style.

Chrome Colors (1830-1860)
The introduction of borax into the glazes facilitated the use of chrome colors—greens, reds and yellows—that became common after 1830 in the Staffordshire potteries. Chrome was identified as an element in 1798 by the French chemist Louis Nicolas Vauquelin. The metal was given the name chrome because of the variety of colors that could be derived from it. The earliest recorded use of chrome as a ceramic colorant was as a green ground on Sevres porcelain in 1802 (Préaud and Ostergard 1997:154), but it was not common on refined earthenwares until around 1830.

One of the prominent new chrome colors was red (actually more a pinkish red), made with chrome oxides in combination with alkaline glazes using borax. Because underglaze red and pink colors were not available until chrome oxides were introduced, they become excellent tpq indicators for the post 1830 period. Black became a common color for stems in floral painted wares from the 1830s on through the rest of the century.

Sprig Painted Wares (c. 1835 - 1870s)
The earliest painted patterns, such as the China glaze landscapes, required a skilled painter and a large number of brush strokes, and thus were more expensive to produce. As the prices for painted wares fell, the potters were looking for ways to cut production costs. One of the ways to do this was the simplification of the painted patterns. By c. 1835, sprig patterns were being introduced. These were very simple small floral painted patterns that only required four-to-six short brush stokes for each element. Sprig painted wares remained common up into the 1870s and possibly later.


Painted decoration is found on refined white earthenwares. Refined white earthenwares have a hard, somewhat porous body, and thin walls. Crushed, finely ground silicon, feldspar, and occasionally kaolin, were added to the clay to produce a white body (Kybalová 1989:13).

Ware Type
Archaeologists have traditionally used the terms pearlware and whiteware to describe ceramic vessels decorated with painted motifs. By the 1780s, Staffordshire potters, importers, and merchants rarely referred to ware type to describe vessels. Ceramics were described by their type of decoration, e.g. “edged,” “painted,” “dipt,” and “printed” (Miller 1980). Two exceptions to this are creamware and Egyptian black (black basalt). The potters’ name for what is commonly called pearlware was “China glaze,” which predates Josiah Wedgwood’s “Pearl white” by at least five years. However, the terms China glaze, pearl white, and pearlware are almost non-existent in the potters’ price fixing lists, invoices, accounting records, and correspondence (Miller and Hunter 2001). Separating vessels by their ware types has minimal value and lumps together tea, table, and toilet wares. For a further discussion of the evolution of creamware, pearlware, and whiteware, click here.

Very little creamware was painted under the glaze, and thus it is rather rare in archaeological collections. The major shift was the development around 1775 of what the potters called China glaze, an imitation of Chinese porcelain. This ware was painted in blue Chinese-style patterns and had a blue tint to the glaze to make the wares look like Chinese porcelain. In addition, vessels such as cups and bowls were produced in a simple Chinese bowl shape, and the footrings of plates were undercut in a Chinese style. These wares remained popular up until the period of the Napoleonic Wars, when cobalt became scarce because supplies from Saxony and Norway were cut off by economic blockades. It appears that China glaze painted wares fell off in production as a result, suggesting an end date for them of around 1810.

Painted earthenwares most commonly have a clear lead glaze. A blue tint was added to the glaze of China glaze patterns that began in the mid-1770s. Blue-tinted glazes continued to be used for the polychrome painted patterns that began showing up in the mid-1790s, and to some extent the blue floral patterns of the post-Napoleonic War period also had a blue-tinted glaze. These blue-tinted glazed wares are generally classified as pearlware, but the potters and merchants of that period classified them by how they were decorated rather than by their ware type.

The dominant vessel forms for painted wares from archaeological sites and invoices are cups and saucers. For the first three quarters of the nineteenth century, painted wares were predominantly teaware. Plates with painted decoration are rather rare prior to around the 1840s, and dipt decoration was the dominant type for hollowares. Painted teas were the cheapest color-decorated teawares from the 1790s through the nineteenth century, and were the most popular type of teaware for most of that period (Miller and Earls 2008).



What is a diagnostic artifact? ›

Definition: An item that is indicative of a particular time and/or cultural group; a computer would be a diagnostic artifact of our time and culture.

Who searches for artifacts? ›

Archaeologists analyze artifacts to learn about the people who made and used them. Non-portable artifacts called features are also important sources of information at archaeological sites. Features include things like soil stains that show where storage pits, structures, or fences once existed.

What is an artifact in evidence? ›

Artifact: Something observed in a scientific investigation or experiment that is not naturally present but occurs as a result of the preparative or investigative procedure. If you pull a hard drive the data is evidence.

What does artifact mean on a monitor? ›

(2) A distortion in an image or sound caused by a limitation or malfunction in the hardware or software. Artifacts may or may not be easily detectable.

What happens if you find artifacts? ›

Taking Artifacts Is Illegal

Violations may result in jail time or fines, as well as con- fiscation of equipment. See the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) at 16 USC 470 § aa-mm and the as- sociated regulations at 43 CFR 7. Besides, collecting artifacts is not the right thing to do.

What happens if you find an artifact on your property? ›

And if you find that you have a genuine archaeological site discovered on your land, you may as well be a renter from the government. In the United States, the National Historic Preservation Act and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act work hand in hand to both preserve and claim artifacts found on U.S. soil.

What type of people examine artifacts? ›

Artifacts are objects like pottery and tools that were made and used by people of the past. Archaeologists examine what material an artifact is made of, where it was found, and any artifacts found with it.

What is an artifact in medical imaging? ›

In medical imaging, artifacts are misrepresentations of tissue structures produced by imaging techniques such as ultrasound, X-ray, CT scan, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

What is an artifact in radiology? ›

X-ray artifacts can present in a variety of ways including abnormal shadows noted on a radiograph or degraded image quality, and have been produced by artificial means from hardware failure, operator error and software (post-processing) artifacts.

What does artifact mean in autopsy? ›

To quote, "A postmortem artifact is regarded as any change produced in the body or any feature introduced into the body, after death, that often leads to much confusion about its nature and causation, and often results in misinterpretation of medicolegally significant antemortem findings or is itself wrongly considered ...

What does artifacts mean in radiography? ›

Definition : An artifact is a structure or an appearance that is not normally present on the radiograph and is produced by artificial means. Radiographic errors may be due to technical errors [ errors related to the technique of. taking the radiograph] or processing errors [related to all aspects of processing]

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