Stein of the Month: September 2002

A Jugendstil Pouring Stein by Johann Peter Thewalt
by Walt Vogdes

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This 1½-liter pouring stein has an interesting design of cobalt blue hearts arranged in geometric pattern, a four-line verse, and an unusual glaze treatment with tones of copper which seem to shimmer. Each line in the verse is contained within a decorative octagonal frame. The verse reads:
Tu die Schönen Mädchen lieben
und die alten auch nicht hassen
Junge Weiber nicht betrüben
und was lebet leben lassen
This sentiment, quite in keeping with the use of hearts as a basic design element, is understood as:
The lovely maidens do adore,
Older women cherish,
Flowers blooming do not ignore,
That all who live may flourish.

This stein has great "curb appeal", but it raises the same basic questions as all steins: who made it, and how old is it? The answer to the first question is provided by the trademark on the base, but even then, many collectors will get it wrong! This trademark, commonly - and mistakenly - attributed to the firm of Paulus & Thewalt - was used by Johann Peter Thewalt, who established his stoneware firm in the Westerwald village of Höhr in 1852. The firm produced common household stoneware products as well as "artistic" wares including beer steins. Not well known, probably due to modest production volumes, the firm continued in business until becoming insolvent about 1930. (See the article entitled "The Elusive TP Mark" in the Library of this site for an extensive article about the Thewalt family and the research into this mark.)

The base of this stein bears several markings: form number 1573, an indistinct impression of the word "GERMANY" (not shown), the capacity (1½ L) and the "TP" trademark.

OK, but how old is it? The firm was in operation from 1852 until 1930, but there are a number of clues which help us to narrow that window. The stein and its relief decoration were formed together in a mold, indicating a date no earlier than 1873 (when Merkelbach & Wick won acclaim for utilizing this technique on objects shown at exhibition). The presence of a trademark also suggests a date no earlier than the last quarter of the century. The word "GERMANY" in all likelihood is in response to the Merchandising Marks Act of 1887 requiring that the country of origin be indicated on items intended for export. But the overall design of this stein clearly marks it as a product of the Jugendstil period, probably about 1910. Let's examine those telltale characteristics.

There are numerous aspects of the design of this stein which place it in the Jugendstil genre. (Literally meaning "youth style", this name belongs to the popular applied arts movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Related to Arts and Crafts and to Art Nouveau, the artistic style was a bold turn away from traditional decorative styles to emphasize themes drawn from nature, flowing, sinuous lines, abstraction and later, geometry.) The shape, although neither radical nor remarkable, is not a traditional one, and the angular line of the molded handle has a distinctly modern feel. The heart was a favored design element, evoking the peaceful and enlightened mood of the period, and it is most appropriate for the sentiment expressed in the verse on this stein. The tiling of three hearts to form a larger heart, and the octagonal frames around each line of the verse reflect the role of geometry in design during this period. The font used in the verse uses new letter shapes with clean lines. The use of raised dots to outline elements of the design also came into use during this period. But the strongest link to the Jugendstil period is the glaze treatment on this pouring stein.

Glazes had historically been used as an impermeable surface for porous earthenware, or to provide a bright, smooth surface for decorating, to seal and protect a decoration, or to provide an overall color. By 1900 many different glaze effects had been discovered, and artists were using glazes to create dramatic artistic effect. Glazes in various colors were used like paint, shimmering, crystalline glazes were developed, and glaze was allowed to sag or run across a piece, adding a most natural and pleasant effect. These glazes could be spectacular, but they were not always repeatable nor predictable when fired. As a result, many of these glazes were reserved for small workshops and studios, not for factory production, and these pieces are therefore less common.

This pouring stein employs a crystalline glaze to impart an unusual coppery-pink color which seems to shimmer. The glaze has been allowed to flow unevenly, producing cloudy, mottled variations in color, most noticeable around the lower half of the body.

All of these decorative hints help us to date this beautiful stein by Johann Peter Thewalt to about 1910-1915.

Note 1 - A more literal translation of this verse is:

Be kind to the lovely maidens
And do not loathe the old ones.
Do not distress young women
And they who live allow to live.

My thanks to Art Maethner for help with the translation.

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