Black Japanned Faience Vase on Pedestal

Germany, probably Berlin, circa 1840


Height: 138 cm (54.3 inch) Ref No: 1476

Of baluster form and with a domed hardwood cover on a circular pedestal, both overall decorated in imitation of Chinese lacquer with figures in exotic landscapes and foliate sprays, the base rim with stylised half flower heads and leaf-tips, the underside with coin mark in underglaze blue.

This vase is discussed and illustrated in: Kopplin, M., Schwartz Porcelain, Münster, 2004, page 239

Exotic lacquer, brought to Europe from the Orient, had a great impact on the local decorative arts, and craftsmen throughout Europe tried to unravel and emulate the mystery of the shiny and durable material. Trading companies from England, Holland and Portugal imported the highly sought-after lacquer and, despite the fact that Germany had no direct contact to the Orient, it was at the Prussian and the Saxon courts that particularly fine techniques for japanning on ceramics developed.

The elegant vase offered here, lacquered on a white-glazed ground visible on the insides and decorated with flower heads along the rim, with the blue underglaze ’coin’ mark to the underside, belongs to a group of faience wares imitating Chinese porcelain, traditionally thought to have been produced in the early 18th Century. However, Samuel Wittwer’s recent discussion about the different types of lacquer vases (in M. Kopplin, Schwartz Porcelain: Die Leidenschaft für Lack und ihre Wirkung auf das europäische Porzellan, Münster, 2003, pp. 237-249) suggests a different history for this group and proposes to date the vases to the 1840s. Comparing their decoration to other objects produced in the 19th Century, and above all taking into account that no records of such vases exist before the 1840s but several suddenly appear in purchase ledgers of the Prussian Royal family in the 1840s, Professor Wittwer speculates that they were produced in Berlin to cater for an elite group of collectors seeking objects in lacquer or porcelain, both of which had once again become highly fashionable and were here combined in the most commercial sense. Related examples are at Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin, the Neues Palais in Potsdam and the Lacquer Museum in Münster; a whole group of such vases was sold from the collections of the Earl of Iveagh at Elveden Hall.