To celebrate the opening of Iridescence, on view through March 24, 2019, Object of the Day this week will feature iridescent objects in the collection.

This turn-of-the-twentieth-century leaf-form pitcher utilizes the innovative eosin reduction glazing technique developed and trademarked by the Hungarian porcelain firm Zsolnay only a few years earlier.

Lusterware, which had been revived in Europe in the preceding decades, remained ever popular, fitting in nicely with the undulating, sinuous and evanescent characteristics of the Art Nouveau style. Art Nouveau artists and designers such as Clément Massier, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Émile Gallé made particular use of iridescence and opalescence in their ceramic or glass work.

In Hungary, Art Nouveau was flourishing and the city of Pécs, where the Zsolnay firm was founded in 1853 by Miklós Zsolnay, became the center of ceramic production during this period. In 1865, Miklós’ son Vilmos took over Zsolnay, gaining the firm worldwide recognition through their participation in world fairs and international exhibitions. It was also under Vilmos that Zsolnay began experimenting with design and technology, appointing chemists Vince Wartha and Lajos Petrick who revealed the eosin process in 1893. A complex glazing method, eosin creates the striking iridescent luster through the addition of metallic oxides to the lead glaze. The name eosin derives from “Eos” the name of the ancient Greek goddess of dawn –possibly a reference to the light red color of the first successful pieces that were produced. Other eosin colors were soon developed, including the blue-violet “Labrador” and the brilliant metallic green-gold tones as seen on this pitcher designed by Lajos Mack.

This object is currently on view in Iridescence.


Janice Shapiro Hussain is the Digital Imaging Specialist at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.


Csenkey, Éva, Ágota Steinert, and Piroska Ács eds. Hungarian Ceramics from the Zsolnay manufactory, 1853-2001. New York: Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture and by Yale University Press 2002.

Santi, Federico and John Gacher. Zsolnay Ceramics: Collecting a Culture /. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Pub., 1998.

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