Stove-tile with a figure of Rhetoric

Cologne, Germany, AD 1561

This stove-tile is made of polychrome lead-glazed earthenware. By the beginning of the sixteenth century the glaze colours included green, yellow, ochre, blue and brown.

The tile is moulded in relief with the figure of Rhetoric beneath an arch in the Renaissance style. It is one from a series of the 'Seven Liberal Arts' made in Cologne during the 1560s, after engravings of 1539 by Sebald Beham (1500-50). The other Liberal Arts are: Grammar, Logic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy.

By the sixteenth century, closed wood-burning stoves (used for heating rather than cooking) generally took the form of a rectangular fire-box on supports or legs, with a free-standing 'tower' above. They radiated heat throughout the room. The elaborately decorated tiles reflect a greater sense of comfort and sophistication in the domestic architecture of the wealthy and merchant classes.

The Rhineland was major centre for the production of pottery from the thirteenth century, with workshops operating in Cologne, Frechen, Siegburg and Raeren. By the sixteenth century these workshops were producing highly artistic earthenware and stoneware applied with moulded decoration. Cologne in particular exported large numbers of stove-tiles to the Low Countries (modern-day Holland, Belgium and northern France) and to England.

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More information


I. Unger (ed.), Kölner Ofenkacheln. Die Bestän (Cologne, Das Stadtmuseum, 1988)


Height: 33.400 cm
Width: 23.500 cm

Museum number

M&ME 1853,4-23,3


Gift of Sir A.W. Franks


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