Italian Faience Centerpiece, ca. 1880

Value (2009) | $1,500 Retail$2,000 Retail

This vase is originally from my great-grandfather, Francis Joseph Dewes, who was a Chicago brewer. He came over from Germany, I think in the 1830s or '40s, and then formed Chicago Brewery and built a mansion called the Dewes Mansion. And this piece is from the Dewes Mansion.

And when did he build this house?

I think it was the 1870s, because I know my grandmother was born in 1886, and she grew up there as well as my father did. So tell me what you know about this vase as far as the age, the origin...

Well, the only thing I really know is circa the date of the mansion. It's in the 1880s or 1870s, and he was an art collector. He commissioned French artists to come over and paint murals, and then he also had an art collection when he came from Germany. This type of vase was the sort of thing that a wealthy American would have bought while they were traveling in Italy.


This is an Italian vase, and it most likely dates from the 1870s or '80s. It's also possible that it was bought in Chicago by a major store. But wherever it was bought, it was very expensive, and it would have been the sort of thing that only a wealthy person could have afforded. Now, there are absolutely no marks on the bottom of it. But I know that it's Italian for several reasons. This is a specific type of Italian pottery which we would call Italian faience, and it's decorated very much in the Italian Renaissance style. There was a huge revival in the late 19th century of interest in things from Italy and from the Renaissance period. Now, this piece has a lot of decorative motifs. There's something that looks like a Greek goddess, or a Roman goddess on here, with little cherub figures, and then there are lots of monsters, or what we would call grotesques, painted all over it. I really love the handles, where there are these winged humanoid features. They have fishlike legs and leafy-type clothes on. They're really fantastic and strange. Now, we noticed that there was a little bit of damage here and there.


There's a handle that's broken off right here, and then there's a few little chips and losses around it, which is fairly typical for this type of pottery.

Well, it was probably also damaged because my brothers and I would play around it, and the baseballs would hit and... Yeah, it is pretty fragile.

It damages pretty easily. But it's really... all the way around it you've got these fantastic designs. There are two different scenes. It is made to be viewed from all sides. And certainly it's more expensive to decorate it on both sides. Now, all of the designs on this vase are completely hand-painted, which is a much more expensive design. It could have been made by a company in Italy called Cantagalli, or it would have been made by a factory that made works in the same style of this particular factory. This type of ware is popular these days. A little bit of damage is somewhat acceptable, and I think a retail price in this condition would be between $1,500 and $2,000. It's really a great example. If it were in better condition, we could add maybe $500, maybe $1,000. In terms of today's dollars, it probably cost more money back then than it's worth now.

Appraisal Details

David Lackey Antiques & Art
Houston, TX
Appraised value (2009)
$1,500 Retail$2,000 Retail
Madison, WI (July 11, 2009)

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