The Blue and White Nurnberg Judge Character Stein
By Judy Stuart
character stein is often defined as a figural drinking vessel whose
body, lid, handle, and mountings combine to form an entire figure,
person, or object. Character steins were very popular drinking vessels
in the late 1800s and many porcelain and pottery factories produced
them in great quantities.
The Schierholz factory of Plauen, Germany, used designs that put
them at the top of the field. Their designs were strictly for the
sake of appearance rather than utility. There was almost no
limitation to the creativity their designers put into these character
steins to make seamless forms without rims or extra markings. For
their best quality character steins Scierholz did not limit the molds’
protrusions for hats, feathers, facial features, etc.so as not to
compromise the exacting designs. The bottom of the stein is
marked with the word ‘Mustershutz’ and has blue ‘cross hatch’ marks
under the glaze.
Schierholz company also used unique glazes in their stein
production. They incorporated a fine white glaze and then used
two types of coloration over the white. One was a full color
design for the character. The other technique was a single color
with many variations of shading. The most often used was a honey
color of various tones. Sometimes a cobalt blue was also used in
The character stein pictured here is by Schierholz and is designed to
be what has become known as a full figure of the Nurnberg judge.
In Germany and other parts of Europe in the 15-16th centuries, there
were singing competitions for scholars of music and poetry who formed
groups to compete. One of the largest competitions was at a
festival in Nurnberg. Judges used very strict rules concerning
rhythm, rhyme, wording, etc. to determine the winners. Often the
meistersingers, as the musicians were called, disapproved of the
critiques given them by the judges. This character stein is the
embodiment of the meistersingers opinion of the Nurnberg judges of
song. This judge seems to be dull, disinterested, and picking his
nose while a jester pours knowledge into his head through a funnel.
This character stein is a rarity as it tells a comical story, is an
intricate and fragile piece of porcelain and is the only Nurnberg Judge
known in the world at this time that is handpainted in blue and white
from the Schierholz factory.