My Creussen-Style Stein - A Saeltzer or Not?
By Salvatore Mazzone - Florida Sunsteiners
The online auction listing simply said, "Four Apostles, pottery, relief, hand-painted, reproduction of a 17th century Creussen stein, pewter lid, 1.0L". It looked great, the price was right, and I was never going to be able to afford an original Creussen. I snapped it up.
When the stein arrived, I was delighted to find it even more stunning than it appeared in the listing. It was clearly hand-thrown, extremely well made, exquisitely hand-painted, and very authentic looking. Somehow, it also seemed larger than in the listing, measuring 6.7-inches in diameter and 7.8-inches in height to the top of the thumblift. It was quite impressive.
There were no maker marks anywhere on the body. But, close inspection found three touchmarks on the underside of the lid. Research discovered that these belonged to the pewterer Gustav Rebestock whose operations were in Eisenach, Thuringia in central Germany. Thankfully, these touchmarks were not mentioned in the listing; if they had been, I'm sure the interest and the bidding would have been much stronger.
Further research informed me that the firm of renowned stein maker and decorator Wilhelm August Saeltzer was also located in Eisenach and used Rebestock as its pewterer. Furthermore, Saeltzer was known to begin production of a line of Creussen-style steins in 1866, doing both the earthenware manufacture and the decoration, as shown in an old Saeltzer catalog page from the 1860s.
Although a close examination reveals that my stein was not one of these early offerings, it doesn't rule out that it might have been made or decorated by Saeltzer at a later time. But, if it was, why doesn't it carry the Saeltzer mark? John Johnson delved into this question in a June 2016 Prosit article.
Johnson has what he described as an "extensive collection of Kreussen-Style steins" as he "enjoys the subject matter and the fine, detailed hand-painting." Several of these appear in his article, including a 1.5-liter stein with an incised Saeltzer mark on the base - also not appearing on the early catalog page - with the three same Rebestock touchmarks on the inside of the lid as on my stein. But he believes that not all Saeltzer-decorated Creussen-style steins carried the Saeltzer mark on the base.
His theory is that at some point Saeltzer found it more cost-effective to buy Creussen-style blanks from outside potters and concentrate on the decorating. This is consistent with the fact that Saeltzer was indeed known to have purchased other types of undecorated stein bodies from a number of manufacturers.
Of course, this still leaves open the question of why the firm would have chosen not to apply a painted or stamped identification mark on the base of these steins. But Johnson points out that the majority of Creussen-style earthenware steins are unmarked and that many of Saeltzer's later decorated stoneware and porcelain steins were also not marked on the base.
In the final analysis, I suppose it cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that it was Saeltzer who decorated my stein. But I believe that the preponderance of evidence indicates that it likely was Saeltzer, and that is good enough for me.
1 Stein Marks
2 Stein Marks
3 Fox, R., The August Saeltzer Factory, Prosit, December 1998
4 Johnson, J, August Saeltzer Kreussen-Style Steins, Prosit, June 2016