Notebook, 1993-


POTTERY AND PORCELAIN - Glossary - A List of Museums and Galleries - Ceramics - [A materials resource site with links]

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Pottery & Porcelain - German

German Faïence in the 17th and 18th Centuries
The extraordinary variety and complexity of German Fašence derives from the central position of the country, open to influences from Western, Eastern, and Southern Europe, and from the fact that, until well into the nineteenth century, it was divided into innumerable independent states, free cities, and principalities, many of them no bigger than an English parish, few larger than an English county.

It will simplify matters if the productions of North and South Germany are considered separately. This is, however, a division of convenience. All over Germany potteries were exposed, in different degrees of intensity, to the same influences and caprices of fashion, and especially in the eighteenth century, influenced and imitated each other, there is no [p. 454] region of European ceramic study where questions of provenance and attribution can prove more difficult. It is this quality of uncertainty, this wide scope for further research, that makes German faïence such a peculiarly attractive field for the collector.

North Germany
Hamburg. No documentary evidence survives to give details of the seventeenth-century Hamburg potteries, which were among the very earliest faïence factories in all Germany. Yet we know from dated specimens, which are numerous [the earliest known being dated 1624], that there was a flourishing production in the middle fifty years of the seventeenth century. The wares are very characteristic, strongly painted in a good, sometimes rather blackish, deep blue. Many pieces bear coats-of-arms, with bold mantling, sometimes the arms of the city itself, more often the pseudoheraldic achievement of some non-armigerous merchant. Dates and initials are very common, as are merchants' marks. Plates and chargers are sometimes scalloped and almost always decorated with the typical Wan Li export ware border of alternate segments of flowers and scrolls, precious objects and the like. These contemporary Oriental porcelains enjoyed an immense vogue and were copied in many places, most notably, besides Hamburg, in Holland and Portugal. The Dutch versions, known as Kaapsche Schotels, are larger and more finely drawn. The Portuguese are more difficult to distinguish from the Hamburg dishes, except by the mercantile decoration mentioned above, which strongly suggests Hamburg. An unusually wide foot rim and a hint of blackish purple in the blue generally denotes a Portuguese origin, as does a more granular glaze. There is no doubt that there was a close trading and artistic connection between these two maritime states.

Most characteristic of all are the Hamburg jugs. These stand a foot [30.5 cm] high and are shaped like a pear with the point downwards, leading into a broadly splayed circular foot. The neck of the jug is high, narrow, and slightly tapering. The front, where not decorated with the arms and merchants' marks referred to as occurring on the plates, bears vaguely allegorical figures. The painting is predominantly blue, enlivened occasionally with touches of a very pure, strong yellow, and more rarely with green and red. These jugs, clumsy yet vigorous, are much sought after. [p. 455]

No factory mark, as opposed to potter's mark, is recorded, and the Hamburg factory seems, for some reason unknown to have ceased production about the year 1670.

In the eighteenth century a Hamburg faïence factory specialized in the production of blue-and-white tiled stoves. Very few 'useful wares' can be ascribed to it with certainty, but the tiles made were of the highest quality - perhaps the most successful rococo tiles made anywhere - and one would expect an equally high standard of decoration of any other productions of the factory.

Berlin and Potsdam. These were four factories in Berlin and its immediate neighbourhood during the period under review. The wares are difficult to differentiate, since the craftsmen copied one another. There are no definitive factory marks and, in all cases, the body is reddish in tone. The two earliest factories were founded by Dutchmen; one, by Pieter van der Lee, in Potsdam [1678], which soon moved into the town and continued well into the eighteenth century; the other, founded in 1699 by Cornelius Funcke, came to an end by 1760. A third factory was started in the middle of the eighteenth century by Lüd;icke, who later moved to Rheinsberg and in the end specialized in creamware to rival English products. In Potsdam itself Rewend's factory prospered for some thirty years from 1739.

The products of these factories form a curious group. There is a distinct preference for bold baroque shapes and reeded bodies, for double gourds with unusually narrow necks, and for combinations of cylinder and octagon not seen elsewhere. Yet throughout this ambitious variety runs a marked vein of provincialism. The shapes themselves are seldom convincing, the waisted foot misses the elegance to which it aspires: lids, especially, often look absurdly small for the vase they crown.

Most of the decoration is in a strong rather matt blue, with ever-recurring motifs of swans and peacocks, sometimes in a reserve of scroll cloud which must derive from Isnik ['Rhodian'] wares of the previous century. A similar Near Eastern source must account for a remarkable group of vases, in a variety of typical Berlin shapes. Here, on a turquoise ground, are portrayed Levantine ships with their lateen sales left white, or, more rarely, reserves with chinoiseries in manganese. These are attributed to Funcke's factory and are quite unlike anything else in European faïence.

Hannoverisch-Münden. The most notable wares from this Northern pottery, with its easily recognized mark of three crescent moons [drawn from the arms of its founder, von Hanstein], are vases and, more rarely, tureens, with double walls and panels of open basketwork. These are painted in rather pallid high-temperature colours, as are the vaguely pastoral scenes, a very long way removed from the 'Watteau' originals which inspired them. There was also much blue-and-white, only distinguishable from the main bulk of North German eighteenth-century faïence when it bears the factory mark.

Brunswick. The elder of the two Brunswick factories - the Herzogliche Fabrik, whose wares are generally marked V H in monogram - began by producing pottery which was clearly Dutch-inspired. Some immensely tall tulip vases exist, remarkably well potted and painted with schematized trees with sponged foliage. The factory produced a number of figures, no coarser than those made at Delft, most occurring in blue monochrome as well as in simple high-temperature colours. This same predilection for plastic effects is shown in various baskets and plates with open basketwork edges and, more notably, in the relief ornament on various covered vases of heavy rococo shape, generally painted in blue and manganese. The Brunswick factory, with its early date and attractive, simple colouring, in which a curiously flat cobalt blue is characteristic, exerted a wide influence, and mention must also be made of jugs and mugs on which the crowned monogram AR, sometimes in cobalt blue, is shown on a powdered-manganese ground. These are often, wrongly, associated with Queen Anne: the cipher is that of Augustus Rex.

A rival to the Ducal factory was Chely's pottery, which after a short career [1745-57] amalgamated with it. Here again the local enthusiasm for plastic shapes was in evidence, and work of a high standard was produced, including figures of blackmoors and street vendors, rather thickly coloured, and some excellent butter dishes in the form of a duck brooding a clutch of fruits and nuts. Chely's mark was a monogram of crossed Cs, like that later used at Ludwigsburg and Niderviller. In vases and useful wares ornamented in cobalt blue a similarly high standard of painting was maintained, distinguishing the work from the superficially similar productions of other factories.

Schleswig-Holstein. Until 1848 Schleswig-Holstein belonged to Denmark, and the important group of factories in this area is sharply differentiated from the mainstream of German eighteenth-century faïence. As ever, once the borders of Scandinavia are approached, a lively and sophisticated understanding of and feeling for rococo is immediately noticeable. The fašence produced in this Northern outpost is among the most charming ever produced anywhere. The shapes are original without being provincial, the painting is fully [p. 456] worthy of the Strasbourg and Marseille work which inspired it, yet distinctive and excellent in its own right.

A Scandinavian characteristic of these factories is that their marks tend to consist of groups of two or, more often, three or four letters, placed underneath one another and separated by horizontal lines.

Schleswig S S

Criseby and Eckernförde -

Kiel B

It will be seen that the factory initial comes first - below are many potters' marks.

Schleswig, perhaps the least impressive of the major factories in the group, produced mainly useful wares, including the 'Bishop' bowls, painted in manganese and colours, as blue-and-white was a jealously guarded monopoly at Copenhagen.

Johann Nikolai Otte, who had been involved in the founding of the Schleswig factory, was also responsible for the founding of a factory on his own estate at Criseby, near Eckernfūrde. His initial is the O above the E in the mark given. Otte's master stroke was the engagement of two important artists: Johann Buckwald and his son-in-law, Abraham Leihamer. Buckwald had had experience at Höchst and Fulda, at Hölitsch in Hungary, and Rörstrand in Sweden. He was later to leave Eckernförde for Kiel and Stockelsdorff, and in all three laces was responsible for the peculiar distinction of the work produced. At Eckernförde were made admirable tureens and tureens with heavy relief ornament. All were of excellent quality. The white glaze has a mauve tinge: the decoration is mostly of 'natural' flowers, freely and brilliantly painted in muffle colours in the Meissen manner.

Buchwald moved on to Kiel in 1769, remaining there, with his son-in-law, until 1772, and this brief reign marks the golden age of the factory founded by Tannich in 1763. Yet the whole ten years of the Tännich-Buchwald dynasties rank very high in the history of European fašence.

The tin enamel at Kiel was of exceptional whiteness, and the colours, applied in the muffle kiln, were of astonishing brilliance. A bold crimson, close to that of Strasbourg, was used for flowers and for picking out detail left in relief. A violet, a clear yellow, and a very pure copper green, shaded with black, added further to the palette.

In addition to useful wares, all sorts of elaborate shapes were made: watch holders, inkstand, barber's bowls, baskets, and tureens. Among the most characteristic were the punch bowls in the form of a mitre [for the popular drink 'Bishop', a sweet punch made with spice and oranges': these are plump and roundly confident in shape, with true ceramic feeling. The kiel pot-pourri jars, or Lavendelkrüge, are of a shape which does not occur elsewhere: a pear-shaped, flat-shouldered body rises above a spreading foot, with a high-domed, fluted and pierced lid covered with applied twigs and flowers. Finally, one must mention the wall cisterns and bowls, in wavy variations of a basic shell pattern. A famous polychrome set, in the Copenhagen Museum, illustrated in colour by Hannover, must rank as one of the supreme masterpieces of European faïence - or indeed of all ceramic art.

The factory at Stockesdorff produced many wares akin to those of Kiel, coming under the same management and similar influences. Special lines were plates with basketwork edges, helmet-shaped jugs, and a form of pear-shaped covered vase more controlled and more deeply satisfying than that of the kiel pot-pourriers. These are often decorated with [p. 457] religious and other scenes after engravings by Nilson, and the knob on the lid is frequently in the form of a figure. This was sometimes humorous, sometimes a cloaked Madonna or a nun. But the great glory of Stockelsdorff both was and is in its faïence stoves, of which there are a number at Hamburg and in other North German museums. The factory was found in 1771, when already the springs of rococo inspiration were running dry, and many of the Stockelsdorff stoves were of an opulent neoclassicism. Yet the finest were the late rococo ones, either decorated in the delicate chinoiseries by Leihamer or left plain, rising tall and elegant above their cast-iron foundation in an exquisite balance of contrasting curves.

In all these factories a main source of design lay in the work of the Augsburg engraver, J. E. Nilson, and it was in part through him that they reached, in their Northern fastness so high a pitch of sophistication. One more Holstein factory must be mentioned, Kellinghusen. Here the pottery is far from sophisticated; it is in fact peasant ware, but so individual and decorated with so sure a sense of ceramic values, that it merits a place in any collection. The best known type consists of useful wares - most frequently plates, decorated in high-temperature colours with stylized flowers and leaves, within a densely designed border of foliage. The dominant colours are an ochrous yellow and a yellowish green, with blues and brownish reds to add the stronger touches. Both design and colour scheme are unlike anything else, and once seen can never be mistaken. These delightful things continued to be made until halfway through the nineteenth century.

With the remaining Northern factories it is only possible to deal selectively. On the Eastern frontier, projecting right into Poland, the Upper Silesian factory at Proskau enjoyed a brief heyday in the third quarter of the eighteenth century, as did the closely associated Glienitz. Both produced wares in a derivative Strasbourg style. Glienitz boasting a particularly fine crimson and a deep copper green, shown to best effect by the black outlining and shading. Proskau colours were more delicate. Here, as at Glienitz, a specialty was vases with highly modelled naturalistic flowers and in a number of figures, including one of a monk in a white habit. During the earlier years the factory mark was a rather florid P: from 1770 to 1783 a D: P:.

A forest region with unlimited fuel and plentiful clay, it was inevitable that Thuringia should have as many faïence as it had porcelain factories. Apart from some fine baroque tureens, most of the work is undistinguished and, unless clearly marked, indistinguishable.

[Text continues . . . . transcription needs to be edited]

[L. G. G. Ramsey, F.S.A., ed. The Complete Color Encyclopedia of Antiques. Preface by Bevis Hillier, Editor of The Connoisseur. Compiled by The Connoisseur, London. New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc. 1962. Revised and Expanded Edition.]



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