Late 19th-Century French Continental Porcelain Vases
I was working on a consulting project in Toronto, Canada, about 10 years ago. My wife was antiquing while I was working and she found these and invited me to come see them. I did, I fell in love with them. They were very unusual. They reminded us of springtime and we had to have them. And we paid $800 Canadian for them ten years ago.
And about how much was that in terms of American dollars back then?
It was about $650 in those days. They had told us that they were German, but I've watched so much of the Roadshow that I felt like they could be Japanese, for all I know, because there isn't any really clear markings that I can tell.
For someone to think that they're German is actually a very logical thing to think. This type of design, with the little bitty tiny white flowers completely covering the surface of the vase is called schneeball, which actually means snowball. It not only means snowball in the sense of winter snowball, but it's the name of a flower. It's a big, puffy flower that's made up of little tiny white flowers. So that's really what the name is based upon. This particular type of decoration was invented basically by Meissen Porcelain in the 18th century. And then in the 19th century, there was a resurgence in interest in this type of decoration and companies all over the world were making similar type of decoration with these little tiny white flowers. Now, the original Meissen examples were more restrained. They had all the little flowers, but they didn't have so much applied to the surface of it like this. They tended to have little reserves, flat surfaces, where little scenes were painted. But in the 19th century, when they began being copied, they got more exuberant, more elaborate, and they just kept adding more goop all over them. These are wonderful with the applied flowers all over the top, the branches, the birds, several kinds of fruit. Someone might say, "What are these for? What do they do?" And my answer is, "They don't do anything. They just sit there and look beautiful." The lids do come off and I suppose they could be used for flowers. But at the point, I think that might be overkill. Our belief is that these are actually French made, most likely made in or around Paris. Now, there's a whole class of porcelains made or decorated in the Paris area that we call Paris porcelain, or Old Paris porcelain. It's a whole group of factories, which manufactured porcelain, plus there were many, many more companies that decorated porcelain. And a lot of them are hard to attribute to because they're not marked well. Now, these do have some marks on the bottom. It's kind of a messy blue mark, and part of the mark has been partially scratched off, or ground off. One explanation for that might be that one company made the vase and a second company decorated them and they were trying to obliterate the mark of the first company. That's purely speculation.
Now, we weren't able to attribute these marks to any one company. They're very much in the style of things that were made by a company called Jacob Petit. Another company named Helena Wolfsohn made similar objects, but we don't know who made them. I would date them to around the 1860s or 1870s. And my guess is that a retail value of this pair of vases would be somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000.
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