Dear Helaine and Joe:
This has been in my family for almost 100 years. What can you tell me about my vase shown in the enclosed photographs? It is marked with the numbers 1436 over 23 and then with a raised shield or medallion with a crown over the initials “RW.”
P. B., Burnet, Texas
Dear P. B.:
We can provide a great deal of information about this Victorian ewer-shaped vase. We can identify the origins, the history and the approximate date, but what we cannot provide is a monetary value because P. B. failed to tell us the size.
Mounting our soap box once again, we need to preach a sermon about telling how big an item is because we usually cannot tell from the photographs provided. This item, for example, is probably six to 12 inches tall, but we cannot be sure of the dimensions. And a large example would be much more valuable than its smaller cousin.
With this quibble out of the way, we can say the piece was manufactured in the town of Rudolstadt in the Thuringia region of Germany. The small city was once the capital of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and was founded in the year 776. It has been a municipality since 1326, and its most famous landmark is the castle Heidecksburg.
Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner and Niccolo Paganini all worked here for the Rudolstadt theater, but the town is also known for its toy building blocks and its porcelain manufactory. Faience (tin-glazed earthenware) was first made in Rudolstadt in about 1720 and was made there until the end of the 18th century.
Ernst Bohne began making porcelain in Rudolstadt in 1854, and Schafer & Vater began production of porcelain in 1890. But the firm we are interested in was called the New York and Rudolstadt Pottery, which worked between 1887 and 1918. This concern was partially owned by the New York City firm of Lewis Strauss & Sons. They were the sole importers of the company’s products into the United States.
This entity used the mark reported by P. B.: a crown over a shield with the initials “RW” inside a sort of shield. Reportedly it was Nathan Strauss (the younger member of the Strauss partnership) who established a relationship with the R. H. Macy Company in New York. Macy gave Strauss retail space in which to sell porcelain pieces made in Rudolstadt and eventually items that were decorated in Limoges, France and Bohemia (modern-day Czech Republic).
The products of the New York and Rudolstadt Pottery are not particularly rare, but the example in today’s question is charming because of its doll-like representation of a little girl standing on tip toe peering into the opening of the lily-shaped ewer/vase. It is very Victorian (circa 1895) and may be a little too “grandmotherly” for today’s tastes.
Still, it has charm and will appeal to those interested in dolls and figures of children. This sort of item is not doing well at the current moment and even if it is a good size, we doubt it would retail for more than $125 in today’s anti-Victorian marketplace.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques. Do you have an item you’d like to know more about? Contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or email them at email@example.com. If you’d like your question to be considered for their column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus, with your inquiry.