Hidden House

Reinhold's Hidden Image Porcelain

by Lee Marple

Hidden Image is one of the more interesting patterns made by Reinhold Schlegelmilch for three short years between 1901 and 1904. In general, almost every type of object has a different female image, usually profile, imbedded in the mold. On occasion, these cameo type images were not painted, yet sometimes they were completely painted over so that they are not immediately evident when first viewed. This is especially true when an object is presented with the image in the upside down position. Collectors have nicknamed this ware Hidden Image for good reason.

The hidden image pattern is not the first with cameo images in the mold. A few years prior to 1900, the firm made tableware with a house embossed into the body of the mold. The ware presents an effect very much like a lithophane, as the image is easily overlooked. Houses may also be found in the rim of some items, made around the same time. Quite often, these houses are decorated so that they are clearly visible. Examples of both types seem to be very scarce, with less than a dozen objects of both types in collector hands.

For a long time, many collectors of RS Prussia thought the Hidden Image pattern was made at a European firm other than Reinhold's. This was perfectly logical, for no examples were known to bear a trademark or other mark that immediately identified the manufacturer. We know now that part of the reason for this is that this ware was produced in a period of time in which Reinhold did not trademark a majority of ware that was shipped to America. Instead, the firm used a variety of brand names, such as "Saxe Altenburg Germany" and "Royal Hamburg Germany." So when objects in other mold patterns with Hidden Image decoration are either not marked or bear a mark of unknown origin, the historical uncertainty in the origin of Hidden Image is quite understandable. It took a lot of research to find Falker and Stern wholesale catalogs that stated the pattern was made by Reinhold Schlegelmilch.

Only one image is present on most items. Exceptions to this are large pieces, usually round, that have two profile views of a women's head. Very large pieces with four images have been rumored amongst collectors, yet no one seems to have found evidence that they exist. Quite often, only one of two images is decorated, and it is invariably the one that faces you when the object is held in the right hand.

The examples with images where the hair is gilt are very collectible. Examples may be seen where the gold is thickly applied, a result of the gold having been applied post manufacture. A characteristic of examples with gold hair is that the gold does not completely cover the green enamel when it has been applied at the factory. On occasion, the cameo is decorated with an outline transfer pattern that provides fine detail for the hair. While these examples are unusual, they are not especially attractive.

One characteristic of the Hidden Image pattern is that more different objects were made in this pattern than any other made by Reinhold's firm. The only objects that seem not to have been made are vases, (including the celery and spoon holder,) the bread tray, and the charger. We show here quite a number of different examples, but make no attempt to illustrate every type of item that was made. The purpose of this article is to show a sufficient number of examples to characterize the ware, and at the same time illustrate many of the decorations we know to have been used.

Copyright 2009-2012 Lee Marple