- Museum number
Vase; salt-glazed stoneware, buff body, cast, the rim incised with three parallel lines and extending to form two handles that merge with the body, which has a ridge below the shoulders; the exterior covered with a deep purplish-red glaze turning to brilliant blue round the lower part; the glaze has dropped below the ridge and has pulled away from the other mouldings so that the profile is always highlighted; the blue effect is an optical illusion caused by phase separation, in which the glass within the glaze scatters a blue light; the interior glazed green; the glaze is of sang-de-boeuf type fired in a reducing atmosphere and then re-oxidised.
- Production date
- 1902 (designed and made circa 1902)
Height: 23.10 centimetres
Width: 17.40 centimetres (max)
- Curator's comments
- See also 1990,0711.1
Text from J. Rudoe, 'Decorative Arts 1850-1950. A catalogue of the British Museum collection'. 2nd ed. no. 293
Van de Velde trained as a painter in Antwerp before turning to design in 1892. He designed rooms and furniture in Paris for both Bing's Maison de l'Art Nouveau in 1895 and for Meier-Graefe's La Maison Moderne in 1898, founding in that year his own decorating firm near Brussels. Having received commissions from German clients since 1897, he settled in Berlin in 1900, and went on to design in other fields such as silver and ceramics. After his move to Weimar in 1902, to become artistic adviser to the Duke of Saxe-Weimar and then professor of the new school of applied arts, a number of his silver designs were executed by the court jewellers, Theodor Müller.
In December 1900 the Westerwald district council in Montabaur approached the Ministry of Trade in Berlin to ask if they would arrange for van de Velde to collaborate in the much-needed revival of the stoneware industry. After the disastrous participation in the Paris Exhibition of that year, where traditional historicist wares had been shown, it had become clear that the Westerwald was no longer in touch with current artistic trends. Although many artists eventually contributed to the modernisation of the stoneware industry, van de Velde was the first to be selected through official channels. The initial response in Berlin was negative, for modern trends were still regarded with reserve, but later the Ministry agreed. Van de Velde's first designs were divided in early 1902 between all the factories in the Westerwald capable of producing them in order that they should be ready for the Düsseldorf exhibition in the summer; van de Velde himself oversaw the production (B. Dry-v. Zezschwitz, 'R. Merkelbach, Grenzhausen und München. Nachdruck der Specialpreisliste 1905', (Westerwalder Steinzeug des Jugendstils 1), Munich 1981, 64-5).
Van de Velde's stoneware designs were his first ceramic designs. They broke with tradition both in form and decoration. While Merkelbach and other Hohr-Grenzhausen firms produced them in traditional Westerwald greys and blues, van de Velde's association with the firm of Reinhold Hanke resulted in the first examples of Rhenish stoneware to use sang-de-boeuf glazes, thereby bringing the stoneware industry into line with international taste. August Hanke, Reinhold's son and the firm's chemist and technician, had been developing copper-based glazes influenced by those of the French ceramists Delaherche and Dalpayrat, whose work he had admired at the Paris Exhibition of 1900. Hanke's experimental glazes were expensive and risky; there were often huge losses in the firing and the glazes were frequently unsuccessful. Successful pieces, such as this vase, could be very striking.
For contemporary illustrations of this vase in a room designed by van de Velde for the Deutsch-Nationalen Kunstausstellung in Düsseldorf, see Kunst und Kunsthandwerk, Vienna, 1902, 540, 545; Die Kunst, 8, Munich 1902, 37 and Dekorative Kunst vi, Munich 1902, 37. In these interiors, carefully arranged by van de Velde himself, three or four vases are prominently placed. By contrast, the factory display in the same exhibition shows van de Velde's art pottery stacked cheek by jowl with traditional relief-moulded beer jugs (B. Dry-v. Zezschwitz, 1981, pls 9, 21). For further discussion of the Düsseldorf display, see J. Rudoe, 'Aspects of design reform in the German ceramic industry around 1900, as illustrated by the British Museum collection', Journal of the Decorative Arts Society 14, 1990, 24-33.
For other examples of this model in private collections, see Düsseldorf 1974, Hetjens-Museum, 'Europaische Keramik des Jugendstils, Art Nouveau, Modern Style', no. 280, with rust-red glaze all over; Brussels 1977, Palais des Beaux-Arts, 'Jugendstil', no. 501; Cologne 1978, Kunstgewerbemuseum, 'Meister der deutschen Keramik 1900-1950', G. Reineking von Bock, no. 245. In the latter the glaze has never been reduced and is a greenish-buff colour. A similar effect is to be seen on an example acquired by the Kunstindustrimuseet, Copenhagen in 1907. For an example in the Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, given by K. E. Osthaus in 1902, see H. Spielmann, 'Raume und Meisterwerke der Jugendstil-Sammlung', Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg 1977, pl. VII (inv. no. 1902.445). The colours are similar to the British Museum vase, but the glaze is uneven at the base. The Hamburg vase is incised 'Hanke'. Van de Velde's designs for R. Hanke do not always bear a factory mark, but the connection between artist and manufacturer is well documented; after the autumn of 1902, certain of van de Velde's designs were produced by Hanke exclusively, enabling van de Velde to insist on his pieces being impressed with his monogram. Osthaus' vase must therefore be among the earliest examples produced by Hanke, before the autumn of 1902, and may have been acquired at the Düsseldorf exhibition of that year. In her discussion of the marks on van de Velde stoneware, Beate Dry-v. Zezschwitz notes a Merkelbach vase with the designer's signature impressed on the side; the assumption is that firms other than Hanke did not use the van de Velde monogram (Dry-v. Zeschwitz 1981, 64-8). For examples of van de Velde's other models for stoneware, see C. Mosel, 'Bilderkataloge des Kestner-Museums Hannover, XI. Kunsthandwerk im Umbruch, jugendstil und zwanziger Jahre', Hanover 1971, no. 2; I. Franzke, 'Jugendstil', Badisches Landesmuseum, Karlesruhe, Bestandkatalog, 1987, nos 183-4; Hohr-Grenzhausen 1986, Keramikmuseum Westerwald, 'Reinhold und August Hanke, Westerwalder Steinzug, Historismus-Jugendstil', H. Reinhold et al, nos 174-81.
Van de Velde also designed table and ornamental wares in the traditional Westerwald manner with relief decoration in blue and grey. These items were sold as cheaper versions of the 'art' wares with their expensive glazes (see Recent Acquisitions, Cat. 354, 1990.0711.1). Sometimes the same forms appear with patterned decoration. An example of the British Museum vase with two-tone decoration also designed by van de Velde is illustrated by W.D. Pecher, 'Henry van de Velde, das Gesantwerk, Gestalung', band 1, Munich 1981, 188, who gives no source or date, but the illustration appears to be taken from a Hanke catalogue. A number of similar designs were later produced by van de Velde's pupils.
See also J. Rudoe, 'An historical continuum: collecting 20th century applied art from Europe and America at the British Museum' from 'The International Art & Design Fair 1900-2002' pp. 15-28, fig. 7.
- On display (G48/dc1)
- Associated events
- Designed for: Düsseldorf Exhibition 1902
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number