Westerwald Research, Breaking Stein Bases

This topic contains 12 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  david bailey 11 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #34137 Reply

    Forrest D. Poston

    I’m helping a BBC show research a monumental Westerwald item, and while it’s not a stein, my main question is stein-related, and this group has always been my go-to source. General question: I remember hearing at one point that there was a tradition of breaking out the bottom of a stein when the owner died…..and I think that I remember also hearing that it wasn’t true. This is the group that I would expect to know the accurate story.
    If bases were broken out, is there also a history of doing so to other items (possibly even a 36″ tall Westerwald piece…..not a tankard, perhaps an urn). Taking it one step farther, has anyone heard of a base being broken out and replaced with a figural finial from the top? I strongly suspect this item did have a lid at some point.
    While I’m asking, does anyone recognize the emblem/coat of arms? Three of the items are common, but the lower left appears to be just eyes and a mouth. Old Man of the Woods/Green Man? Thoughts on significance?
    The main frieze shows Arminius at The Battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9AD (beat the crap out of the Romans). This does appear to be a piece of historical significance, and I’d really like to help them with as much information as possible. Of course, I will credit this group for any help given.
    Some pics of related item.
    The part that’s “whole”:
    Bottom: Replaced bottom
    Interior Figure: Interior Figure
    The emblem: Emblem/Coat of Arms
    The top to be restored: Broken Top

  • #34138 Reply

    Forrest D. Poston

    This picture didn’t work on the original post, and I don’t see an edit option. Sorry.
    Interior Figure

  • #34141 Reply


    The story I recall about breaking bases had to do with regimental steins, stein purchased by members of the military when they went on Reserve status. Supposedly this was to prevent someone from drinking from it after the owner passed. This story may have some amount of truth to it, but judging by the number of Regimental steins we see more than 100 years later with intact bases, I don’t think this was a widespread practice. It was certainly not the practice with this type of saltglaze pottery.

    This “jug” has obviously been badly broken and then reassembled, perhaps by someone who did not know what it looked like originally. I add that last part because of the lid being used to replace the base. It’s quite a curious marriage. If I had to guess who made it, I would guess the firm of Reinhold Hanke, circa 1850.

  • #34143 Reply


    To me, those look like three eyes, such as found on this town’s wappen: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wappen_Siegertshofen.png
    It is quite common to see a symbol repeated three times in any of a number of patterns.
    My guess would be that it is a town or village wappen but I don’t know which one. That looks like a Munich child from your misplaced finial, so I would search the arms of the towns and villages and even neighborhoods around Munich in the 19th century.

    • #34149 Reply

      Forrest D. Poston

      Thanks for the thought about Hanke.
      I’ve actually “retracted” the thought that the base is replaced. I only have the pictures to go by, but I now think that’s a “plaster” filled base, and the marks in it suggest that there was a metal base.
      The three-eye idea came up in another group, but I hadn’t heard that it was common to repeat the symbol three times. At first, I was thinking that the bottom image was a bit different from the two upper ones, but it does appear similar enough to be a third eye.

    • #34150 Reply

      Forrest D. Poston

      Thanks for the “Munich child” lead. I’ll look into that one. Note that I no longer think the bottom has been replaced. Can’t confirm since I’ll never see this in person, but I think that’s actually plaster or something similar filling the base partly for better weight (less likely to tip over) and also to connect it to a metal base, which would account for the marks.

  • #34151 Reply

    1. This piece would not have originally had a metal base.
    2. I believe the figure in the misplaced lid is actually a dwarf drinking from a pokal. That is a relatively common finial used on Westerwald stoneware.
    3. The book “Reinhold und August Hanke, Westerwälder Steinzeug, Historismus – Jugendstil” shows similarly shaped jugs as well as a Weinhühler with the same scene encircling the body as well as the lion head motif.
    4. The best way to get specific information about this jug would be to contact the Keramik Museum in Höhr-Grenzhausen. The pieces mentioned above are in their collection.
    • #34169 Reply

      Forrest D. Poston

      Thanks for the lead on the book. I’ll pass that along. I sent a link to that museum and another one yesterday.

      If not a base, how do you explain the lines in the “white” area? I think that I was wrong about the bottom being broken, which would also eliminate the idea of the finial now being inside.


    • #34170 Reply

      Forrest D. Poston

      By the way, I’ve suggested using a selfie stick to get a cellphone down to take pics/video of the figure, so we may be able to resolve that part (or more specifically, I suggested it to them after Ginny suggested it to me).


    • #34178 Reply

      Forrest D. Poston

      They got interior shots, and it’s a gnome but still nothing definitive around the edges to show if the gnome is original to the inside or started as a finial.

  • #34191 Reply

    Lyn Ayers

    I have a couple of additional thoughts. The broken top that you show is surely the top of a large ewer. This can be shown since the top surface is not horizontal, rather curved. That would also indicate there was never a lid for this piece.
    As an ewer, I would expect a large handle that is obviously broken off. There should be a bare area some place on the body where something had been attached (maybe partially shown in the lower left of the picture showing the top to be restored. That might match up with the piece broken out in the image with the emblem. So this presents us with a challenge as to the presence of the gnome inside. Some large ewers have been seen with a figure on the top of the handle. I am not sure this guy would fit on top of the handle though. If not, it might have been original since based on the design if likely had a double bottom–bottom of the body and another of the base. I have only seen a figure mounted inside on the bottom once. Or it might be from an entirely different piece.
    I feel that I have seen similar pieces to this over the years, but they were too large for me to devote a lot of study.
    I hope this doesn’t confuse things too much.

    • #34192 Reply

      Forrest D. Poston

      I obviously need to sit and just study the pictures more closely, although I never really expected this to develop into such an ongoing “quest”. You’re quite right about the shape of the top suggesting no lid. There is a small (ornamental) ring handle visible on the right, and I would expect a matching one in the missing section. I don’t know if the family has a picture from before the damage but will ask.


  • #36665 Reply

    david bailey
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