"Hope" is a thing with feathers. ~Emily Dickinson
The first birds and foliage designs appeared as a set of four birds: a duck, a peacock, a bluebird, and an eagle. Although other versions of several of these appear earlier, in cobalt (Fantastic Birds and Beasts) and red lustre (Lewis Carroll Red Lustre Fireplace Tiles), but I believe these may be the precursors to what would be his "Persian color palette".
The ouroboros dragon swallowing its tail, a symbol of the eternal cycle of renewal, does not appear with leaves in Martin Greenwood's Designs of William De Morgan, but was sold at auction in 2010 as part of a set of antique De Morgan tiles, all with encircling foliage (Why is this okay?).
Original William De Morgan bird and ouroboros dragon tiles, sold at auction in 2010.
These are early tiles (see designs); De Morgan's mark impressed on the back of one of the tiles indicates it was made during his "Chelsea Period". (See my longer article, William De Morgan: From Arts & Crafts to Art Nouveau.
There are 12 tiles in the Persian Garden set. Each tile shown is unique, with each tile in a pair showing differences from the other tile in the pair, just as in the antique tile set I took as my inspiration.
Designer: William De Morgan
Sizes: 4.25 inch, 6 inch square, and 8 inch.
Uses: Persian Garden Birds are suitable for all interior applications as accents, borders, or to form a backsplash.
4.25 inch square tiles: $55.
6 inch square tiles: $68.
8 inch square tiles: $88.
Symbols reveal themselves wherever one looks for them, but two in this tiles set are worthy of mention in their cultural context: the Peacock and the Ouroboros.
De Morgan and his wife, as well as Pre-Raphaelites Rossetti and Burne-Jones, had an interest in reincarnation medieval astronomy/astrology, and spiritualism. William De Morgan's mother held séances, and William and his wife, Evelyn Pickering De Morgan, a late pre-Raphaelite and English Symbolist painter, actually wrote the book spiritualism, The Results of an Experiment.
The peacock symbol, later to become emblematic of the Art Nouveau period, was a De Morgan favorite, and while the peacock was arguably a cultural icon of the late 19th and early 20th century, it traditionally represents Vision and Spiritual Awakening. both subjects that fascinated the De Morgans. (More peacock tiles.
Why is there a dragon eating its own tail, an ouroboros, in De Morgn's tile set? He actually is a part of the original tile set.
The ouroboros, the dragon, swallowing its tail is a more esoteric symbol of the eternal cycle of renewal with its roots in gnosticism and alchemy.
De Morgan, Morris, Rossetti and the second wave of Pre-Raphaelites had a strong interest in Iznik tile, which they inaccurately called 'Persian'. Several designs from this period,
Later tiles made with De Morgan's Persian Color Palette show stronger colors.
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