Stein Collectors International
Featured Stein ~ July 2020

A Chip-Carved Creussen Merchant's Tankard

By Walt Vogdes

This article is about a chip-carved Creussen stein which I bought on eBay several years ago. The seller didn't seem to know exactly what it was, which was not entirely surprising, given that he was located in Italy, not a hotbed of early stoneware. Since my knowledge in that field is also fairly skimpy, I consulted Dr. Beatrix Adler's book on "Early Stoneware Steins from the Les Paul Collection." What I found there was sufficiently reassuring for me to make the purchase.

Four steins are shown in the photo below. The first (#1) is the stein I now own. The other three are from the Adler book (and the Les Paul collection) mentioned above. These are the three plain brown chip-carved examples in the book. (I attribute differences in color tone, noticeable in both body and pewter,  to photographic effects.) In addition to the chip-carved field, there are a number of traits shared by these steins: #1 and #4 are the same body shape and both have spindle finials, #1 and #3 both have shell thumblifts and very similar decorative bands below the rim and above the pewter footring. (The dates assigned to these steins is per the Adler description.) (Click the image to view a larger photo.)

Adler tells us that "Creussen workshops began decorating their vessels with network patterns for the first time around 1615/20. These were initially restricted to small surfaces on the body, but they soon covered the entire surface. The oldest reference piece is dated 1622. Otherwise, they were used to highlight certain areas. The potters either chipped out the stylus shapes with a potter's loop or else they turned the vessels slowly on the wheel while using a rolled stamp (coggle).

Adler notes that "The majority of the vessels were sold to pottery merchants and exported without pewter mounts. The mounts were then fitted by pewtersmiths where the buyer lived. Many of the pewter mounts on Creussen stoneware were made in Bayreuth and Eger." Figure 5 shows detail of the pewter mounts on my stein.

My stein, however, has an additional deliberately hidden feature:  the interior walls of the stein are shaped in a way to reduce its capacity! This is what may be called a "merchant's stein," or possibly, "a gambler's stein," since it was created to allow its user to refill his stein for each round of drinks, staying sober while his companions drank full measure. The white line seen in Figure 6 is an approximation of the shape of the interior walls of my stein.