Stein of the Month: July 2004

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~ Colored Lithophanes ~
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.

But let us get back to our stein of the month. As you turn it over to examine the bottom, what once appeared to be just another nice porcelain stein has random paint marks of different colors. Who could have defaced this stein and why did they do so? A pleasant surprise awaits those that hold it to the light and view into the stein, this lithophane appears in full color! I think I understand and can roughly explain that a color TV works by shooting electrons through a red, green and blue filter, but how do you explain these random colored markings producing the right colors on the lithophane picture? But work they do, to provide a pleasant surprise when the Bavarian finishes his beer (they wouldn't dare show a pink elephant would they?). My guess is that a pattern oriented with the scene in the lithophane would be attached to the bottom while the appropriate paint was applied. The article in the Antiques Journal states that there would be a refiring after the paint was applied. I don't know how many colored lithophanes exist, but I think it is safe to say they can be considered rare. You don't find them in stein auctions too often. The Beer Stein Library (see the Links area of this site) features two Schierholz steins, a bowling pin and a bowling ball, that have colored lithophanes. The scene, which is complementary to the theme of the steins, is the same in both. Whereas common monochrome lithophanes, excluding regimentals, can be had in the low hundreds, a colored lithophane will likely run around a thousand dollars.

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.

Jim Riley was also able to pick up a nice "go with" for this stein. It is a porcelain figurine of the Shutzenliesl between two match holders. The bottom has a circular mark with the name Brüder Thannhauser Münich. The Thannhauser brothers, Albert and Josef, were porcelain decorators who also operated a pewter foundry in Munich from around 1882 to 1910 according to Keramik-Marken Lexikon: Porzellan und Keramik Report 1885-1935 Europa (Festland) by Dieter Zühlsdorff.

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.
Schützenliesl or the Target Girl - Who Was She?
Die schöne Coletta - The beautiful Coletta
Lithophanes: Those Pictures in the Bottom
The Blair Museum of Lithophanes
at the Toledo Botanical Garden, Toledo. OH
Fabulous Lithophanes and Their New Home - from "The Fairy Lamp Club"
The Meisterwerke Special Collector Stein by WW Team
Franz Defregger - FOBSII (First Original Bavarian Shop On Internet Int)
Franz Defregger - Art Renewal Center

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