And Now for Something Completely Different

by Jim Kempster

Only in the wacky world of Monty Python will you be able to find the rare “Lady Feeding the Tiger” bowl shown in the title. This article is devoted to the “odd” but real pieces of Reinhold Schlegelmilch porcelain that turn up from time to time. These are not the plates and bowls that the average collector dreams of finding, but their oddness gives them a certain appeal to the collector who likes things that are just a little out of the ordinary. In some cases, the subject is one that is rarely seen. Sometimes the elements of the décor are familiar but the way in which they are used is new. Most of these objects will never be chosen for inclusion in books about R.S. Prussia. Like Rodney Dangerfield, they get no respect. So here, ladies and gentlemen, is their fifteen minutes of fame.

These first three images show the R.S. Germany cottage and mill scenes. These scenes were introduced sometime in the five years preceding World War I as replacements for the R.S. Prussia cottage and mill scenes used a few years earlier. They form a pair, and often appear together on one piece, or in sets such as cream and sugar sets. Sometimes they appear in well developed landscape scenes with detailed background treatment, and trees in the foreground as on the 10" bowl. Other times, background and foreground are reduced to a few quick brush strokes to suggest a scene. Frequently, they appear in a vignette with even less added detail. The vase with flower frog has the mill on one side, and the cottage on the reverse side. I like how the artist created foliage and sky on this vase by brushing on the color, then dabbing them with his finger to soften certain areas. On close inspection, finger prints are clearly visible in the sky forming clouds. Watch those trees in photos 1 and 2 reappear later.

The castle by the lake, and the windmill scenes shown next are another pair of decorations that are often found together in sets. Both scenes feature a lake with sailing ships in the background, and usually hills in the far distance. The set shown above includes a cracker barrel, cream and sugar set, and a syrup which probably had an under plate originally.

The above photo shows a mayonnaise set with both scenes in the pair appearing on different pieces. It's a nice castle, but not "The Castle".

Next we see this odd little windmill on stilts. Add a decal of a tree, and complete the scene with a suggestion of land, water and distant hills. Some variations were possible at this last step.

All of the above scenes can be found with the R.S. Germany mark at left. This mark was used as part of the company letterhead on stationary dated only between 1910 and 1915.

Now we come to scenes with no buildings at all, just the trees and water, and the occasional boat. The boating dish uses a tree from the small set of tree decals again, with a sailboat as the center of attention. Foreground and background are similar to previous scenes. On the tray at center, the setting sun is a new feature. The scene on the basket at right continues around all eight sides. Just trees, water and hills now, but the pine trees are new.

The five lobed bowl below has the pine trees by the lake again, and a clump of autumn trees down the hill by the lake on the left. That same clump of trees, plus a second closer clump appear on the plate below right. Both have a path leading you to the lake. The pen tray beneath repeats the clump from the plate, and shows the skyline of a town across the water. I can imagine the decorators sitting with their collection of small decals, and trying to create a scene for every possible combination.

There are several scenes that involve gates, but usually the gates lead somewhere. In this combined scenic-floral cake plate, what is beyond the gate is left to the imagination of the viewer.

The cottages that appear on the mustard pots and salt shaker shown below also appear on the "Woodland" scenes series. Like the "Woodland" pieces, these are also hand painted over outline transfers. The color scheme is much more subdued than that found on the "Woodland" pieces. This scene is a favorite of mine, but seldom appears in the R.S. books.

The two plates shown next are decorated in a silhouette style of painting, probably with the aid of stencils. The left plate shows a biplane in flight over a town. The right plate shows another windmill scene, this time by night with the moon peeking out from among the clouds. The windmill plate is marked with the R.S. Germany wreath and star mark, plus the mark of the importing company of Burley and Tyrrell, a company that went out of business in 1919.

The game birds (silver pheasants) transfer was introduced early enough to appear on pieces marked with the Prussia wreath and star, and continued to be used at least until the mid-1920s as it can be seen in the 1926 Butler Brothers catalog. This pheasant plate has an unusual décor with a matte brown background, water, and green foreground, with the addition of a bright gold sun, and vegetation. Because it has a gold edge, it is likely from the pre-WWI period.

For those who have never seen a real silver pheasant, compare the R.S. version with the above photo of a live pair.

Swans were a popular motif on R.S. Prussia porcelain. Several different swan transfers were used over the years. This R.S. Germany cracker barrel is decorated with stylized swans with a town silhouetted in the background, and flowering branches to the side. This mold was produced from about 1908 to 1915.

This five lobed bowl is decorated with a seldom seen bird décor of two exotic pheasant-like birds in a tree. The tree looks oriental, so the birds may be phoenixes. The bowl is marked with the R.S. Tillowitz Palace China Germany mark which is believed to have been used in the 1930s. If the date is correct, this design was in use at the very end of the company's existence.

These bird transfers date from the 1920s or 1930s. They can be found on porcelain from many European manufacturers. Art Deco colors and details are consistent with this time period.

These two mustard pots have no scene, but the decor is again very Deco. The mustard pot on top is decorated to resemble onyx. I think it is a transfer applied at the factory. I have seen a few matching pieces over the years. The mustard pot on the bottom looks like a painting by the Russian painter Kandinsky. Below is a detail of the 1923 Kandinsky painting "In the Black Square".

There must be countless examples of unusual R.S. porcelain in collections today. Just for a change, put away your cobalt portraits, your tigers and your hidden image treasures, and showcase those "odd" pieces that you have tucked away out of sight. You might grow to love them, given the chance.

Copyright 2009-2012 Jim Kempster