Stein of the Month: May 2003

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An Unusual Brewery Stein from the Jugendstil Era
by Master Steinologist Walt Vogdes

German brewery steins undoubtedly number well into the thousands, and they are highly collectible. The stein featured here was produced in 1909 by the Westerwald firm of Reinhold Merkelbach for the Königsbacher Brauerei of Koblenz. The stein bears the circular trademark of this firm with the words "R.MERKELBACH" and "GRENZHAUSEN", along with a capital D which was some form of production control mark.

The Königsbacher Brewery seems to be among the very first to have issued an "annual" stein, a practice that they carried on for a number of years. The relief goat's heads make it clear that this stein heralds the annual arrival of Bockbier, making the term "Bock" in the words encircling the rim unnecessary. A bold and handsome decoration in the blue and gray colors, the stein is unusual because of its other characteristics.

In the early 1900's the Westerwald stoneware industry turned to the arts community for new designs in an effort to break out of a slump and to be able to penetrate foreign markets where ceramic works from France, England and Japan were far-outpacing German works. Seeking a new artistic direction, designs were purchased from prominent Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) artists, sculptors and architects, as well as students and graduates of the new ceramics tradeschool in Höhr. These were top-to-bottom designs, including body shape, handle, lid and decoration, not simply an illustration to be incorporated on a standard body. The shape of the body and the handle of this stein, as well as the non-traditional form of the pewter lid, are in stark contrast to the traditional straight-sided Bayrische brewery steins.

L. M. K. (Ludwig Moritz Karl) Capeller studied at the School for Applied Art in Munich from 1903 to 1905, following which he gained renown as a teacher and innovative artist. While still a student he produced a number of designs, at least 11 of which were acquired and executed by Reinhold Merkelbach (form numbers falling within the range of 503 to 516). Of particular interest relative to the stein featured in this article is Capeller's form number 503 (no photo available). Although form 503 was produced with a different design, the body, handle and lid were adapted to use in this brewery stein by the addition of the bock's heads and the words below the rim. Thus this 1909 annual brewery stein has its artistic foundation in a design by a well-known Jugendstil artist.

As a footnote, it is known that a design by Richard Riemerschmid, famous Jugendstil applied artist, was similarly adapted for Königsbach Brauerei in 1904, form 1729. I do not know of other designs which may have been similarly "hi-jacked", and would be happy to learn of any.

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