by Ronald E. Gray
The May Stein of the Month is a ½ L Mettlach form 280 with decoration 621. The man on this stein appears to be clothed similar to the troubadour adorning our May calendar on the Home page. Perhaps he is also a troubadour, although no instrument is shown on this stein. Not that it matters though, the gentleman is too busy enjoying his pipe and a large stein of beer to be bothered with anything else. The German verse, “Dös liabst auf der Welt is mir allweil mei Ruha, a’ guate Maas Bier und mei Pfeiferl dazua!” translates to “My favorite thing in the world is being left in peace, a good stein of beer and my pipe along with it.” The official Mettlach title for this decoration is "des Trinkers Freud" or The Drinker's Pleasure. (Thanks to The Beer Stein Library for the translation.)
This stein is referred to as a PUG, print under glaze. Since some forms can contain different decorations, the decoration number is used to identify PUG steins. The form number is usually shown in parenthesis in reference sources. The incised number on the bottom is referred to as a form number rather than a mold number since it could be used for different sizes as well as the different decorations that could appear on PUG steins. Some of the forms used for PUG steins are 280, 1526, 1530, 1909, 2140, 2145, 2152, 2176, 2177, 2179, 2183, 2184, 2212, 2221, 2222, 2227, 2261, 2262, 2270, 2271, 2303, 2332, 2333, 2348, 2349, 2384, 2419, 2488, 2774, 2788, 2791, 2893, 3095, 3185, 3257 and 3282.
There are three things that make this particular stein interesting. First, the markings on the bottom contain two of the earlier Mettlach marks. The incised and combined “VB” mark was used from 1885-1899. The brown strapwork stamp or placard mark showing V.B. and the decoration number (only the "CH" of the "GESCH." can be seen at the bottom of the mark) is from the 1880s. There is no date mark on my stein. These marks are shown in the 1994 edition of The Mettlach Book. Second, the initials “CK” appear below and to the right of the hops vine surrounding the gentleman. None of my Mettlach sources note the initials, probably because it is easy to overlook as just being a part of the design. The "CK" initials can also be found on PUG steins 624 (1526), 627 (1526), 1020 (2271), 1021 (1909), 1036 (2384) and 1037 (1909).In addition, beakers 1050 (2327) and 1051 (2327) have the "CK" initials. As far as I know, this artist has not been identified. It should also be noted that The Mettlach Book describes decoration 621 on form 1526 as Munich Child. That clearly does not match my decoration 621. The book does list a 612 (1526) as Munich Child, so this disparity is probably just a case of a transposed number resulting in a duplicate listing. Third and perhaps best of all, the lid on my stein was made by R. Wagner, who was also located in Mettlach, Germany. The inside of the tang contains his mark, an engraved barrel-shaped beer stein with the name “R Wagner” engraved vertically inside the engraved stein. It was difficult to obtain a photo of this mark, but I think the photo does give you an idea what it should look like when you check your steins for the mark. While I have also seen a pressed glass stein that showed the R Wagner name inside the glass, I believe it was just a finishing firm that specialized in pewter lids.
Thanks to a tip from Walt Vogdes I have learned of a fourth interesting point for my stein. Bob Wilson wrote an article in the June 1990 Prosit about the Mettlach placard mark (Gary Kirsner refers to it as a strapwork stamp in The Mettlach Book). The article states that there are four placard marks, of which mine is the first one shown in the article, that were first used in 1886 and can only be found on steins. Bob’s findings are that the placard mark means the decoration was handpainted. The article explains how the design, including the placard mark, is put on the stein which then is later hand-painted. He compares two such steins showing the difference in the handpainting. He even compares a handpainted PUG, with the placard mark, to a later polychrome PUG of the same decoration, without a placard mark. I compared my stein to one shown in The Beer Stein Library Mettlach catalog and did note some color variations, although it is a little difficult to do a good comparison. I am not sure about the type of markings on the stein in The Beer Stein Library Mettlach catalog. Bob believes the placard mark was limited to decorations numbered from 567 to about 700. The article also shows the "CK" signature on Mettlach 624 (1526), which is the same as that appearing on my stein.
If you have Mettlach 621 (280) with a placard mark, compare the coloring on your stein to this one. Can you see any differences that prove the decoration was handpainted? Does anyone have decoration 621 without the placard mark? Does anyone have additional Mettlach pieces with the "CK" signature? Are the initials the same style as on decorations 621 and 624? Let us know your findings; that will add to our knowledge about this type of stein and its artist so we can update this article.
I was able to obtain my stein at a pretty good price on eBay because it was not identified as a Mettlach. I was pleasantly surprised to find the artist’s initials and the pewter marking when I received the stein.