Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Gravy boat, 'Pietschenhieb' service; hard-paste porcelain, cast, the vessel, handle and base formed in a single thick-walled piece, with bold diagonal line from handle to base; a band of underglaze blue decoration on a white ground encircles the rim.

  • Producer name

  • Date

    • 1903-1904 (designed and made)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 13.2 centimetres
    • Width: 27.3 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Comment

        Impressed with van de Velde monogram in a square shield.
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Comment

      • Inscription Type

        maker's mark
      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Comment

        Meissen crossed-swords mark in underglaze blue.
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Comment

        In underglaze blue.
  • Curator's comments

    See also 1981,1209.1 See also 1990,0711.1
    Text from J. Rudoe, 'Decorative Arts 1850-1950. A catalogue of the British Museum collection'. 2nd ed. no. 294.
    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 1903 Meissen commissioned a tea and dinner service from van de Velde, and from Riemerschmid (see Decorative Arts 1850-1950, Cat. 256), in an attempt to introduce an outstanding new range intended for general production. But van de Velde had not designed for porcelain before and had little understanding of its technical requirements. The service took two years to develop, during which time the Meissen modeller Otto Stange had to spend seventeen weeks with van de Velde in Weimar. In July 1903 Stange wrote to the Meissen factory that 'der Herr Professor arbeitet eben das erste Mal für Porzellan, es ist somit nicht jeder Griff allemal der Richtige' ('as it is only the first time that the Professor has worked with porcelain, he does not always get it right straight away'; B. Beaucamp-Markowsky, 'Kataloge des Kunstgewerbemuseums Koln, Band VI. Porzellan', Cologne 1980, no. 148, quoting J. Just, 'Meissener Jugendstil Porzellan', Leipzig 1972, 16). The first models were developed early in 1903, but suggestions for the decoration came only at the end of the year. Van de Velde insisted that his models bear his signet.
    The service, known as 'Peitschenhieb' because of the whiplash border motif on the plates and dishes (see Decorative Arts 1850-1950, Cat. 295), was shown at the third Deutsche Kunstgewerbe-Ausstellung in Dresden in 1906 and was widely illustrated in contemporary periodicals; see, for example, Die Kunst 16, Munich 1907, 62. Doubts were voiced straight away by the German critic L. Gmelin: 'van de Velde hat es nicht verstanden, der Feinheit des materials gerecht zu werderi ('van de Velde has not understood how to do justice to the delicacy of the material'; Kunst und Handwerk 59, Munich 1906-7, 8o, 95). These doubts were echoed by H. Singer in The Studio 40, London 1907, 57; 'it is all van de Velde and not a bit porcelain. The ornamentation is in no way adapted to the material, it would do as well for a book cover, or a piece of furniture.' The factory's own reservations surface in the official bicentennial publication of 1910 which presents an apology for the 'by no means brilliant results' achieved by 'renowned industrial artists' on the grounds that china as a material is difficult to master. The van de Velde service is described as more suitable for production in metal (K. Berling, 'Festscrift zur 200 jahrigen Jubelfreierder altesten europaischen Porzellanmanufaktur Meissen 1910', Leipzig 1911, 103, with illustration of tea service). By 1911, when K. E. Osthaus acquired the service for a travelling exhibition of the Deutsche Werkbund, the factory expressed its clear disapproval of the choice as representative of modern Meissen production (Beaucamp-Markowsky 1980, no. 148, quoting Just 1972,6).
    The service was produced with underglaze blue or matt burnished gold decoration. The gold decoration was no longer included in the Malereimusterliste of 1913 ; the blue decoration still appears in the 1930 list (Dresden 1989, Porzellansammlung Dresden, 'Meissener Blaumalerei aus drei Jahrhunderten' ed. K-P. Arnold and V. Diefenbach, Lleipzig (exhibition also held in Hamburg, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe) no. 293), but it is very doubtful whether it was still produced at that date. The service was expensive and since it did not sell widely, attempts were made to make it look more like traditional Meissen porcelain by adding painted flower sprays in areas left blank in van de Velde's design; a tureen with gold decoration and multicoloured flowers on the lid was in the possession of K. Barlow Decorative Arts Ltd, London, in 1987 (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, fig. 12). The original design for the tureens was with plain lids, but examples are known with lids bearing the whiplash motif used for the plates (O. Walcha, 'Meissen Porcelain', London 1981, [first published Dresden 1973]) pl. 80).
    Pieces from this service are to be found in a number of European collections; for example: the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Zurich (E.Gysling-Billeter, 'Objekte des Jugendstils aus der Sammlung des Kunstgewerbemuseums Zürich', Bern 1975, no. 295); Die neue Sammlung, Munich (H.Wichmann, 'Industrial Design, Unikate, Serienerzeugnisse. Die Neue Sammlung. Ein neuer Museumstyp des 20.Jahrhunderts', Munich 1985, 114 and 'Neu Donationen und Neu-Erwerbungen 1984/5. Die Neue Sammlung, Munich 1988, 57 and 121); the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Cologne (Beaucamp-Markowsky, nos 148-9)'; the Brohan collection, Berlin (Brohan 11/2, 'Kunst der jahrhundertwende und der zwanziger Jahre. Sammlung Karl H. Brohan. Berlin. Tell 2. Metall, Porzellan', Berlin 1977, no. 449); the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin (J. Just, 'Meissener Jugendstil Porzellan', Leipzig 1983, pl. 91); the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, Krefeld (Düsseldorf 1974, Hetjens-Museum, 'Europaische Keramik des Jugendstils, Art Nouveau, Modern Style', B. Hakenjos and E. Klinger, no. 305) and the Masowische Museum, Plock, Poland (H.Makus, 'Jugendstil in Polen: das Masowische Museum in Plock', Weltkunst, Jg. 15, no. 15, 1 August 1987. 2034-7, fig. 3). See also Habsburg, Feldman, Geneva, 14 November 1988, lot 64/63: a large part-dinner service comprising several other shapes such as eggcups, butter dishes and an hors-d'oeuvre platter. For further discussion, see Rudoe 1990.


  • Bibliography

    • Rudoe 1994 294 bibliographic details
    • Rudoe 1991a 294 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G48/dc1

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


COMPASS Title: Porcelain gravy boat, designed by Henry van de Velde, made by Meissen


COMPASS Title: Porcelain gravy boat, designed by Henry van de Velde, made by Meissen

Image description



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: MCT9672

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help