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German Pottery

( Originally Published Late 1800's )

Profuse as is the literature of Germany, we must yet turn to French authors to find a more concise record of her ceramic arts than her own language can present. Germany, which has so recently swept into a mammoth existence, has found her way to this triumph, not through a fine sense of the poetical and spiritual predominating in her people, but by the gradual and unerring growth of utilitarian principles taught per force throughout her borders. Catch the Saxon where you may, his appreciation of the practical is always uppermost. William III. apprenticed the Crown Prince to a tanner, and now the Crown Prince sends his eldest son to a book-binder; not that either may have the necessities for labor thrust upon him, but that the practical world of industry may be known in the court as well as among those subject to it. This inherent love of utility makes only a short chapter for her arts as regards pottery. Its principal feature is a dignified age rather than any great merit as regards its artistic properties.

Germany claims for herself the discovery of the art of pottery-making so far back as the year 1278, more than a century before Luca Della Robbia was born; but M. Demmin prefers not to recognize this claim, and takes up his discourse at a point where dates are less obscure, and the evidences more tangible. Even then, lie finds specimens of great antiquity and considerable beauty commencing with Saxony and the North. " Throughout a large part of North Germany," says Mr. Marryatt, "especially Brandenburgh and the lands bordering on the Baltic, the potters' art was not limited to the manufacture of portable vessels. Terra-cotta, moulded and glazed, was employed for architectural purposes throughout a large district where stone was scarce and costly. Both the exterior and interior of buildings in Danzig, Lubeck, Rostock, Wismar, and Stralsund, and even the reeded piers of the churches, are formed of moulded bricks, dating from the fourteenth century. The fronts of the houses are varied with glazed and unglazed moulded bricks, and elaborate Renaissance ornaments are executed in this manner, covered with a green glaze, dating from the middle of the sixteenth century. Luneburg is rich in examples of this variety of the art, where the spire of the principal church is of terra-cotta open work, and the chief houses are protected in front with posts, bearing coats of arms of their owners, of the same material. At Branden-burg the transepts of the church of St. Katherine have immense screens of rich, open tracery of clay, baked and glazed, in dark color green, with statuettes of the same material, in niches. The date of this church is 1401."

Throughout Germany, wherever we find the glass painters, there we also find some one of them engaged upon pottery work. The Hirschvogels, of Franconia, are a fair example of those who extended their work in this direction. Veit, the elder of these, who labored between the years 1441 and 1525, produced all his works by hand,without the aid of a mould; on this account his ornamental work is especially fine,-the green enamel seemed most his favorite, and his vases, beside being ornamented with grotesques and acanthus leaves in relief, occasionally have portrait medallions upon them.

It is not impossible that he conceived his ideas of pottery work from Luca Della Robbia, as he lived contemporaneously with him, and was also a traveller in Italy. The Nuremburg potters were famous for their glazed tiles used in the manufacture of stoves. According to Mr. Marryatt, " they are generally composed of slabs, twentyseven inches by twenty-five, enriched with ornaments and figures in bas-relief, of a fine character, some after the school of Holbein. The prevailing color is a deep copper green, sometimes blended with brown and yellow. They bear various dates. In the Museum at Sevres are two of these slabs, in which the figures are of white, upon a ground of varied brilliant colors. One has the hair gilded, a style of ornament very rare in this kind of pottery."

The school of Swabia excels the Franconian work. Hans Kraut here produced several works of merit, the most celebrated of these being the tomb of the Knights of St. John, at Villingen, which was erected in 1536, to the memory of Wolfgang de Musmunster, commander of the order. It is a large bas-relief, representing the battle of Rhodes.

The circumstance of Hans Kraut being an artist, denied him the privilege of a burial in the Villingen cemetery, the superstitious people of that day deeming an artist a necromancer, a fact which affords us considerable evidence regarding the small proportion of artistic German ware of that age.

Some new impulse beside that of mere practical value was needed to elevate the German pottery to the standard of the work of the Latins. The reader will notice how abruptly we break the artistic sequence when we leave the Latin countries and enter those which form the foundations of our modern civilization. Italy and France both bent their energies to the elevation of every industry sympathetic with their ideas of art, ornament and beauty.

Germany, with very few exceptions, applied it at once to the general economy of every-day life; progress, with her, meant usefulness and availability. Had they proper stones for building purposes, the result might have been no pottery; had they a more convenient material with which to manufacture stoves, they would not have used tiles of clay. Granted that the inevitable destination of pottery work was entirely practical, and consequently of exceeding value, still the fact of its extreme applicability to works of art cannot be made subservient to this feature. GERMAN POTTERY/HARD, OR STONEWARE.

AT least one element of the German character had considerable influence over her pottery work, and that element was their convivial propensity. Perhaps no nation on the earth has produced more pots, mugs, canettes and jugs, than the nation over which Gambrinus exercises his greatest influence. These were produced mostly in the grescerame, or stoneware. This ware was of ancient Eastern origin, and was first produced among the western countries in Germany.

If we are to judge the capacity of the German stomach by some of those jugs, we can easily find a reason why the ware of these forms was so exceedingly popular. Upon the Rhine they were termed "bearded jugs," or " bearded-men " (Barmanekes), for the reason that all of them were ornamented by at least one head of a man, with a flowing beard in relief.

The ware itself is of very close texture, grayish and not porous; having been subjected to high heat, it is somewhat vitreous, and consequently impregnable to liquids.

"According to tradition, Jacqueline, Countess of Hainault and Holland, the most lovely and intrepid woman of her time, after retirement to the Castle of Teylingen, near Leyden, where she had gone after surrendering all her estates to Philip, that she might save her husband's life, employed her leisure time in the charge of a manufactory of stone ware, and is said to have thrown flasks of this pottery into the Rhine, that they might in after ages be deemed marks of antiquity. Hence, these pots are called Jacobak-antetjes." The old German custom of drinking from a vessel and then flinging it away after the pledge or toast, so that it might never be used again, probably gave rise to the tradition.

A finer ware than that which we have just considered is known under the erroneous name of "Gres de Flandre ; " " but," remarks M. Demmin, " if Flanders ever made any, its place of manufacture is unknown, and almost all the pieces bear inscriptions, arms and monograms of German derivation."

Still another and more beautiful style is known as "Poterie deluxe," and was exceedingly fine in color, form and ornament. Scripture subjects predominate in this class. This was the highest eminence which German pottery reached, and occupied the period between the -years 1500 and 1620. The glaze was generally of salt. In considering the stone-ware of Germany we are verging closely upon the territory of true porcelain ; indeed, the art of pottery-making declined after the year 1620, and ceramic art did not revive until the succeeding century, when Bottcher's series of discoveries revolutionized the system.

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