by
John McGregor

Is it from Bayreuth, Hanau, or Nuremberg? Is it genuine, or a reproduction? When you buy a very nice faience stein these are some of the questions you might ask. There are more of course,but these two will do for starters. During the "Historismus" period (ca. 1870-1900), many steins were made in the "Old Style," and quite often they will fool the experts as to their genuineness. The questions above apply to the stein in Figure 1.

 

FIGURE 1.

A few years back I found this piece in a local antique show and it was identified as a product of Hanau. The dealer made the determination from the date on the lid, which is 1670. There were only three faience factories in Germany that were producing before that date and they were Hanau (1661), Hausenstamm (1662) and Frankfurt a. Main (1666). Of the three, the style is closest to that of Hanau, thus the attribution. As we will see, the date on the lid will play a significant part in determining what we want to know.

If you have been collecting steins for any length of time you know that engraved dates on steins have little or no significance when it comes to actual attribution. For instance, a stein might have been purchased in 1900 to give as a 50th birthday gift and the purchaser had the birth date of 1850 engraved on the lid. We would probably know from the style of the stein that it wasn't made in 1850, and wouldn't assume it was. Just remember, dates engraved on steins cannot be used to accurately date, or attribute them.

 

FIGURE 2.

Before we go on let me show you an example. The pewter stein in Figure 2 is from the mid-18th century, and in fact is dated (17)"41" which is very close to its date of manufacture.

Close, yes, but 18 years too early. Figure 3 shows the interior of the lid and a drawing of the touchmarks that are stamped there. These are the touchmarks of one Adam Rickl, of Schoenfeld, Bohemia. Adam Rickl became a master in 1759 and so couldn't have made the stein in, or prior to, 1741.

 

FIGURE 3.

So, let me repeat it once again, engraved dates, cannot be used to accurately date or attribute, beer steins.

While the style of decoration on the faience stein in Figure 1 is similar to that of Hanau, it is also similar in many ways to that of Nuremberg. In fact when I was in the Bavarian National Museum I came upon the stein in Figure 4. Not only is the style of the floral decorations similar to those on my stein, but the body and handle are identical in style and size to my stein. Could my stein be from Nuremberg? Even though my stein is dated 1670, and the Nuremberg factory didn't open until 1712, is no reason to assume not.

 

FIGURE 4.

Actually the style of decoration on my stein is closer to that of Bayreuth than either Hanau or Nuremberg. Everything about this stein looks good. The pewter is all correct except that it has been cleaned and polished and after it had been polished someone had tried to artificially darken it again. This in itself is no reason to declare the piece a reproduction as many European collectors of faience and early stoneware, polish their pewter until it looks brand new. There is very little wear to the pewter except on the inside of the lid where it has been rubbing against the rim. There is some side to side play in the hinge, but very little. The pewter foot ring, while not exhibiting excessive wear, does show moderate, even wear, in that the bottom of the foot ring is completely crosshatched with marks indicating normal shelf wear. The body and the handle are in excellent condition with only tiny flakes on the edge of the handle and on the rim. The interior of the stein is dirty, or stained, with a slight buildup in the bottom. In fact, my stein is no better, or worse, than the stein in Figure 4. So, is my stein the genuine article, or is it a reproduction?

In an attempt to find out, I sent photos off to several experts, but only one bothered to reply. This person requested that I send them the stein so they could assess it properly. I sent the stein and waited, and soon had a five page letter in reply explaining why my stein was a reproduction. Some of the reasons given were that someone had attempted to darken the pewter artificially, that the pewter and the body were in too "new" condition to be 322 years old and the handle was "generic," not like those used on Bayreuth steins at all. However, in a ctalog published by the Frankfurt Museum of Applied Arts, one of the steins in their collection, that is attributed to Bayreuth, has a handle identicle to the one on my stein. So, I'm not completely convinced yet. The clincher however, according to the expert, was the date on the lid. The bayreuth factory hadn't opened until 1714 and as the date on the lid was 1670, it couldn't possibly be a product of the Bayreuth factory. The person then asked to keep the stein for a while to show it to some other experts just to make sure.

I soon received the stein back, with a confirmation that it was indeed a "Historismus" piece and an offer to buy it for the price that I had paid for it. (??) What was I to make of that?

I had long before decided to keep the stein regardless of its true status, because it really looks nice on my shelf,so I declined the offer.

A while back I had a visit from another expert and showed him the stein, and he felt I should get another opinion. This seemed to me that it was a vote for it being original. Now I had two opinions, one for original and one for reproduction. Was I ever to know for sure?

I now know it is a reproduction, and the answer was staring us in the face all along. See Figure 5.

 

FIGURE 5.

Figure 5 reproduces the date that is engraved on the lid, 1670. You will note that the seven is crossed in typical German style. Crossing the seven like this didn't come into vogue until after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. You won't find the sevens crossed on any genuinely old steins. While any number of reasons were given for this being a reproduction, the one that absolutely proves it, is the seven in the date on the lid.