R.S. Prussia Look-alikes

by Jim Kempster

Collectors of R.S. Prussia have been aware of modern reproductions of genuine Schlegelmilch porcelain since the popularity (and price) of this collectible began to rise in the 1970s. Online auctions are cluttered with poor quality copies of classic R.S. forms, and many novice collectors have purchased these forgeries only to learn too late that although the copies look like R.S. at first glance, they do not have the same thin translucent body or the fine finishes that mark real R.S. pieces. These copies are meant to deceive and make a profit for the unscrupulous dealer in such items.

However, porcelain production has always been a very competitive business, and manufacturers were quick to copy each others’ successful lines if a market existed for a particular style or item. Although we R.S. collectors like to think that Reinhold’s porcelain was all original, and if two pieces seem alike, the non-R.S. piece must be the copy, sometimes pieces show up that make you wonder.

The ewer on the left was manufactured at the Royal Worcester porcelain works in England about 1885. The matching ewer on the right was manufactured by Reinhold Schlegelmilch sometime before 1890. It is decorated with applied large dots of glaze, a finish that was discontinued by 1890. Examples of this ewer are known that are marked with the R.S. Arrow mark that was in use before 1890. So the two pieces are probably contemporary with each other. The decorations on these ewers are typical of each company’s porcelain from that period. Neither manufacturer was trying to pass off his porcelain as the product of another company. Each was just producing a saleable item to meet market needs. Where did the design originate?

In the pair to the right, the left ewer is again Royal Worcester and the right ewer is R.S., decorated with applied large dots from the pre-1890 period. No attempt has been made to copy the decoration. Just the mold design is the same.

The early R.S. cobalt under-glaze scenic porcelain line may be another example of Reinhold designing products to match public taste. Ever since Dutch traders with the Dutch East India Company brought examples of Chinese blue and white porcelain home in 1611, imitations of these costly treasures have been produced and sold in Europe. The most famous centre of this trade is the town of Delft in Holland, where blue and white Delftware is made to this day. However, by 1631 English “Delft” was being made at Lambeth in England. The Royal Worcester Company was founded in 1751, and their earliest wares were cobalt on white pieces. By 1764, Royal Worcester had introduced the technique of transfer printing on porcelain. Thomas Minton introduced the blue and white "Blue Willow" pattern in 1780, and it has never been out of production since that date. A taste for blue and white porcelain was a key element of the “Aesthetic Movement” of the 1880s, where “objets d’art” were collected solely for their beauty. Blue and white porcelain contrasted nicely with the black ebonized Japanese style furniture that was the rage. Oscar Wilde is said to have lamented on his decadent lifestyle “Oh, would that I could live up to my blue china!”

Among the cobalt designs that Reinhold used during the 1890s are hand painted scenes showing a windmill and cottage, sometimes a bridge over a canal, and sailboats. The scene is very similar to designs used on traditional Delft products. Real Delftware is actually pottery, with a tin glaze applied to create a pure white surface onto which the cobalt design was applied. By contrast, Reinhold’s products are true porcelain, translucent and pure white, so no glaze had to be applied to the surface before the cobalt was applied. R.S. porcelain is much thinner and lighter that Delftware.

Shown to the right are products from other European porcelain firms that imitate Delft designs. The plate at left was made by Royal Bonn (Franz Anton Mehlem), the middle plate and the clock are by Rosenthal. The clock is quite similar in shape to clocks made by Reinhold shortly after 1894.

In the 1893 edition of the Coburg Directory, there is an advertisement for the R.S. company in which their specialties are noted, including “blue under glaze” scenes. It is likely that this refers to the delft-like cobalt scenic pieces that are shown below. Slight differences in the scenes suggest that hand painting was employed.

This R.S. bowl is 10.25" in diameter and 1.5" deep, is in old mold 2, and is decorated with a delft-like scene of windmills, cottages, and a boat on a canal. In addition, the border is filled with cobalt flowers and foliage.

The low container shown twice at right is 4" in diameter, and 2.25" tall to the top of the finial. It is in the melon mold OM 13, and shows a similar windmill and sailboat scene.

This 10.9" diameter plate with pink borders is in OM 2 and features a cobalt scene of a ship with windmills in the background.

Around 1899, the New York ceramic importing firm of Bawo & Dotter introduced a line of imitation Royal Vienna vases and urns which they claimed were facsimiles of authentic R.V. pieces, made to sell at one tenth the price. When found today, these pieces are marked with the Erdmann Schlegelmilch company’s Royal Saxe E.S. Germany crown mark. Although they were designed to look like Royal Vienna, they were not marked to deceive the buyer. Two or three years later, the Reinhold Schlegelmilch company introduced its Royal Vienna imitations. They do not seem to have copied the forms of authentic R.V. pieces so much as decorated their products in the “style” of Royal Vienna, using colors and finishes associated with that firm. These pieces often bear one of two marks suggesting Royal Vienna goods: either the Royal Vienna Germany trademark or the Royal Vienna “beehive” mark. Again, Reinhold’s company took advantage of a business opportunity, and produced what the public wanted.

Shown at left is a genuine late 19th century Royal Vienna plate. The figures in the centre are completely hand painted, as are the gold details in the border. Notice how the design in rim is divided into four quarters. This general design is copied in the Schlegelmilch Royal Vienna plate shown below.

Beneath is the plate in RSP mold 343 is 10.5" in diameter, and is decorated with a classical scene (The Judgment of Paris) based on a painting by the Swiss artist Angelica Kauffmann. The maroon fields are in the Royal Vienna style. The plate is marked with the red/green R.S. Suhl mark plus the blue “beehive” mark of authentic Royal Vienna pieces. This mold was used extensively for tableware. They made no attempt to copy the shape of a R.V. plate, but took a plate already in production and gave it a R.V. "look”.

The 7" peacock blue iridescent vase shown at right features a portrait of Madame Recamier and lavish gold stenciling. It is marked with the Royal Vienna Germany mark with crown in gold. The décor mimics the R.V. style and colors without being an actual copy of a particular piece.

The vase at left is a rather poor copy of an authentic R.S. vase that is itself an imitation of the Royal Vienna style. Even in pictures, the difference in quality can be seen by examining the handles. The real R.S. is crisp, sweeping and elegant; the copy not so much! All copies are not created equal.

The town of Schramberg in the Black Forest region of Germany had a pottery industry which began in 1820. From 1883 to 1912, the plant was run as a subsidiary of the firm of Villeroy & Boch. Among their earthenware products was a line of high glaze pottery decorated with rural houses with a thatched roof in a forest setting in dark brown tones.

These designs appear to be hand painted.

Sometime in the years from 1911 to 1915, the R.S. company introduced a line of porcelain decorated with hand painted outline transfers of country buildings in a forest setting in dark brown tones. A variety of buildings were used and figures of a man on horseback, a woman leading oxen, or a sheepherder were sometimes included in the scene. Here are two pieces whose buildings are very similar to those on the Schramberg pottery shown.

The mustard pot and cream/sugar set in the last picture show the dark brown, yellow and purple color scheme of this product line, and two of the three figures mentioned above.

While today’s collector must always be aware of the many modern reproductions of vintage R.S. porcelain, there are also vintage pieces out there that resemble RS only because both manufacturers were reacting to the buying public’s taste at that time. These pieces weren’t made to deceive anyone. They just offered the public a choice of similar goods.

Copyright 2009-2012 Jim Kempster