by Ronald E. Gray
This month's stein is not only very interesting, but it is also highly desirable. Regardless of the type of stein we may collect, supply and price are no doubt the only factors keeping this stein out of our collections. Thanks to Jim Riley for sharing his stein with us.
At first glance this stein appears to be just another ordinary porcelain stein, albeit one with a pretty girl dancing on a beer keg with several steins of beer in her hands. In fact, this was a real bar maid, named Coletta Möritz (1860-1953); and she was beautiful. The noted German painter Friedrich August von Kaulbach (1850-1920) was struck by her beauty and made her famous in his painting titled Schützenliesl or Target Girl. An article about this favorite Munich beauty appears in the Library area of this site, along with an image of Kaulbach's painting (follow the link at the bottom of this page). A second link is provided to a page on the web site of the Haus der Bayerischen Geschichte (House of Bavarian History) which also provides the history of Die schöne Coletta, this time in German. The painting was so popular that a song of the same name was composed. You should be hearing that song in the background as you read this article.
The German on the stein reads, "Hört Ihr Herrn und lasst Euch sagen Bairisch Bier das stärkt den Magen", which translates to "Listen Gentlemen and let me tell you, Bavarian beer fortifies the stomach." Thanks to Dagmar Rives for the translation.
As with most porcelain steins, this one contains a lithophane. Lithophanes, the word literally means light in stone, are created by varying the thickness of the porcelain paste, thus creating shadows. When a strong light is shown through the bottom, the picture can be seen quite clearly inside the stein. When you turn over the stein, however, you do not see a picture, although there may be some slight bumps in the surface of the bottom. Porcelain was first discovered by the Chinese; and so too was the process for making simple lithophanes. A Frenchman, Baron de Bourgoing, developed a process for more complex lithophanes and was awarded a patent in 1827. Lithophanes were quite popular in Victorian times and were soon added to porcelain steins. The Blair Museum in Toledo, Ohio, which is devoted to lithophanes, is worth the attention of stein collectors. At the bottom of this article you will find links to two explanatory articles about lithophanes, one in the Library area of this site, and the second, which originally appeared in The Antiques Journal, on the web site of the Blair Museum.
A word of caution to novice porcelain collectors, I have seen some ordinary pottery souvenir steins on eBay where the bottom was removed and a porcelain lithophane inserted in its place. I have also seen pottery or stoneware steins with what looks like a glass insert, usually yellow, containing a picture, an obvious modern-day attempt to simulate a lithophane. WW-Team (WW stands for Westerwald) is making this type stein, which is labeled as a Meisterwerke or masterworks (a link to a site with a view of that stein is provided at the end of this article.) It should be noted, however, that some of the steins appearing on eBay were obviously done by individuals to exploit unwary bidders.
The scene in this lithophane is a Tyrolean woman playing a zither while a man sits on a table. This scene is reminiscent of the paintings of Franz von Defregger (1835-1921). While several of his paintings featured zither players, I could not find the same scene in my book on Defregger paintings. Defregger paintings are a popular feature that is frequently incorporated into the design of steins. I recently saw another lithophane featuring a zither player, which did appear in my Defregger book. Links to other sites with information about Franz von Defregger and his paintings are at the end of this article. A future stein of the month article will feature a Franz von Defregger scene.
Our stein of the month has one more feature that makes it unusual. Most porcelain steins, with the exception of Schierholz, some regimentals and some contemporary steins, are not marked. This stein, however, does contain a manufacturer's mark in green. The mark is that of Rheinsche Porzellanmanufaktur L. Hermann (circa 1882-1905) of Oberkassel, Rhineland, Germany. That firm was apparently founded by and operated by Oscar Erck from 1861 until the change in ownership circa 1882. The mark, stamped in green ink, is difficult to see (look at the left side near the rim of the base), so I have included a picture of the mark as it appears in Marks on German, Bohemian and Austrian Porcelain: 1710 to the Present (Updated and Revised Edition) by Robert E. Röntgen.
Finally, Clarence Riley, former president of SCI, will be making a presentation of colored lithophanes at the 2004 SCI convention. Perhaps this will result in an article that we can add to the Library, as these colored lithophanes are fascinating. We know there are a least two character steins with colored lithophanes. Does anyone else know of another character stein with a colored lithophane? How about a regimental with a colored lithophane (that would be worth something wouldn't it!)? If you can send photos of your colored lithophanes, perhaps we can create an online catalog of colored lithophanes.