Carolinda Tolstoy Signature ImagesImagesImagesImages


Ernst J. Grube

Carolinda Tolstoy's pottery occupies a very special position within the context of modern ceramics. Descendant of an old Middle Eastern family, living in London, her art draws on a variety of sources. But, as is evident from even a superficial acquaintance with her work, her primary inspiration is the Muslim Middle East. Sidestepping the Far Eastern mode in which so many English potters of the 20th century have worked - notably Bernard Leach and his school, she appears to have taken up the traditions of Middle Eastern pottery in a unique way.

Contemporary English potters such as Alan Caiger-Smith and Sutton Taylor, among others, have been fascinated by the lustered surfaces of Persian pottery without adopting its designs, as Takuo Kato, one of the great Japanese potters of this century has done; Carolinda Tolstoy's fascination is instead with the floral patterns seen on Middle Eastern pottery, and with the use of gold. In this she works in the tradition of William De Morgan, one of the great English potters of the 19th-century, and also in the broader tradition of European pottery: the 17th-century Italian continuation of Ottoman ceramic design, in Padua, which lives on into the 19th century in the Cantagalli factory in Florence, and in France with such potters as Theodore Deck.

Her ceramics also find precursors in early 20th-century Dutch potters such as Leonardus Johannes Senf and Cornelius Hartog, and in the Fauvist movement, in which potters like Andre Matthey were profoundly indebted to the ceramic arts of the Muslim world. But it is the use of brilliant golden floral patterns in Carolinda Tolstoy's work that is almost uniquely her own, giving her work a brilliance and a sense of movement that has few parallels in contemporary ceramic making.

© Ernst J. Grube,
President of the East West Foundation, NY and Professor Emeritus,
University of Venice. London 2003