by John Stuart
The words bring a rush of excitement to collectors of fine porcelain. The name is synonymous with high-quality translucent porcelain painted with scenes of works of art. Vienna was the second true porcelain factory to be established in Europe, following the development of the porcelain factory at Meissen. It was founded by Claudius Innocentius Du Paquier in 1718-19. The factory produced excellent quality material: plates, cups, vases, urns, pots and more intricately modeled pieces like candelabra and figurines. The painted designs on the pieces varied from relatively common floral decorations to leafy scrolls with fruits, canopies, figures in landscapes, panels and cartouches. Much more sophisticated and extravagant mythological, battle and genre scenes were also produced but are quite rare.
Much Vienna ware was decorated by outside painters — hausmalers. These artists purchased the porcelain blanks from the factory, took them back to their studios and decorated them to meet the desires of their patrons and customers. Custom designs ranged from simple monograms, cyphers and armorial crests, all the way up to the most extavagant designs coveted by status conscious persons of wealth and position.
The downside was that Du Paquier was underfunded and could not afford to employ the best painters for the factory, and thus a large portion of the fees went to the artists and not to the factory. Du Paquier kept going despite great financial difficulty, but by 1744 the factory was taken over and officially sold by the Austrian State.
It was at this stage that the famous Bindenshield was adopted. The shield was taken from the center of the Coat-of-Arms of the Austrian Hapsburg family. The products of the Vienna factory are identified by the period of their production: Du Paquier 1719-1744; First State 1744-1784; Sorgenthal (after the Director) 1784-1805; Third State 1805-1864.
From 1744 to 1864 there were at least 35 major varieties of the Bindenshield mark. In addition, these major size and shape variations were used in both the impressed and stamp versions. The colors of the stamps were most commonly blue, but iron-red, purple and black were also used. To add to the confusion these marks were also forged extensively by other manufacturers and decorators.
By the middle third of the 1800s there were new economic factors in Europe. Mass production had arrived. Consumers came from the middle class and they wanted more for less. Cost, not a major factor to the wealthy or royal patrons of 18th century, was a primary concern at this time. The Vienna factory could not compete and in 1864 it was closed by the Austrian Parliament.
Immediately after the factory closed, a number of Austrian and Bohemian porcelain manufacturers and decorators capitalized on this opportunity to elevate their own products by using imitations of the Bindenshield. By the end of the century at least a dozen other manufacturers in Germany, France and Austria had used variations of the shield.
As beer stein collectors, we almost never see a beer stein from the real Royal Vienna pre-1864 factory. Almost all of what are called “Royal Vienna” steins were made from the 1880s up to 1914. The only marks that we can verify with certainty on any “Royal Vienna” steins are those of Ackermann & Fritze in Volkstedt after 1908 and those made by the studio painter (hausmaler) A. Lamm in Dresden, whose studio opened in 1887. He is known for decorating in both the Meissen and Vienna styles. His unique monogram, a figural lamb over the word Dresden, was used on bodies with either the crossed swords Meissen mark or blue beehive mark.
Royal Vienna steins are beautifully decorated. They feature deep blue, maroon, light pink and green, white and yellow backgrounds adorned with heavy gold painting. Most of the scenes fall into three major categories: portraits; mythological scenes; and Chinoiserie style. The portraits are most commonly Monks or fanciful Victorian ladies. The mythological scenes were most frequently taken from famous paintings from the Renaissance to the late 18th Century. The Chinoiserie style is the least common and is often overlooked by collectors. Chinoiserie imitated the oriental porcelain style that had previously been copied by Meissen prior to 1750. Most are in gold or orange-red but polychrome enamel examples have been seen.
The most desirable examples are those with the most paintings, i.e., a full scene wrapping around the body and paintings on the outside and inside of the lid. Often, when the scene is a famous mythological event, the title of the scene is written in red or black script overglaze on the base.
Regardless of whether they were made in Vienna, Volkstedt or Dresden, their beauty alone dictates that they will always deserve the title ROYAL.
*Reprinted from The Beer Stein Journal, August 1995, by permission from Gary Kirsner Auctions.