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18th-Century Dessert Table

Collections & Research

The Gardiner Museum is Canada’s national museum of ceramics. It is one of a small number of specialized museums of ceramics in the world.

Ceramic is the term we use to describe any object, whether created for practical, ritual, or ornamental use, that is made of clay and fired.  There are many different types of ceramic; each defined by its material and sometimes by the way it is decorated or fired.

The Gardiner Museum was established in 1984 by George and Helen Gardiner, whose founding collection set the pattern for the future. Rather than building an encyclopedic collection, the Gardiners focused on specific areas of ceramic excellence which they collected in depth. Their collection was divided into two principal areas:  Earthenwares, represented by ceramics from the Ancient Americas (pre-colonial America), Italian Renaissance maiolica, and English delftware; and Porcelain, with a focus on European porcelain of the 18th century, including specialized collections of  Commedia dell’Arte figures and scent bottles.

Over the past thirty years, the Museum’s collection has expanded its European holdings to include creamware, French faïence, and 19th-century ceramics with a focus on Minton and wares for the Canadian market. Additional important specialties include Asian, modern, and contemporary ceramics.

1. Parrot Effigy Bottle with Double Chambers (detail), Salinar Culture, Peru, North Coast, Late Early Horizon 500-300 BCE, Gift of George and Helen Gardiner, G83.1.159

2. Moon Flask (detail), England, Stoke-on-Trent, Minton, Deisgned by Christopher Dresser (1834-1904), c.1870-1880, Gift of N. Robert Cumming, G98.1.28

3. Dog Effigy Vessel (detail), Comala Style, Mexico, Colima, 300 BCE-300 CE, Gift of George and Helen Gardiner, G83.1.40 

4. Pilgrim Flask (detail), China, Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period and Mark, c.1736-1795, The Robert Murray Bell and Ann Walker Bell Collection of Blue and White Chinese Porcelain, G98.9.1

5. Monumental Pharmacy Jar (detail), Italy, Faenza, Attributed to the workshop of Virgilotto Calamelli, c.1550, Gift of George and Helen Gardiner, G83.1.354a-b

6. Rabbit Tureen (detail), England, London, Chelsea, c.1755-1756, Purchased with a gift from Dr. Walter S. Bloom and Carol Bloom Koffler in memory of their mother, Adele S. Bloom, a collector and connoisseur of English porcelain; with a grant from the Government of Canada, Ministry of Communications under the terms of the Cultural Property Export and Import Act and with the assistance of the Tecolote Foundation.

7. Janet Macpherson, Collapsed Deer Head, North of North Series, 2015, Gift of the Artist, G17.8.1

8. Mining China Stone (detail), Guangzhou, China, Canton School, c.1810, Gift of Lindy Barrow, G13.2.2

9. Jun Kaneko, Untitled (head), 2002