Whenever anyone thinks of fine-quality porcelain character steins, the name Schierholz & Sohn leads the field. Many collectors consider them to be the finest designers and manufacturers of a large variety of different types of character steins.
Schierholz was established in 1816 by two brothers, Johann Karl Rudolf Heuacker and Dr. Gottlob Ferdinand Heuacker. After Dr. Heuacker's demise in 1817, Christian Gottfried Schierholz joined the firm. They were licensed to produce porcelain wares for the ruling factor of the town of Plaue. In 1818, Johann left the partnership, leaving C.G. Schierholz the sole owner. In 1887, Christian’s grandson, Arthur Schierholz, became the owner. He died in 1899. In 1907, the firm became a private limited-liability company known as Von Schierholz Porzellan Manufactur, Plaue G.m.b.H. In 1972, the factory was nationalized by the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and became known as VEB Porzellan Manufactur Plaue.
The two artists who designed the majority of the Schierholz character steins were Edmund Haase and Oskar Sieder. Haase joined Schierholz in 1884 and remained with them until his death in 1914. He trained as a sculptor at the Munich Academy of Art and is believed to have been the main designer of character steins for Schierholz. Sieder, who joined the firm in 1873, was also a sculptor.
Schierholz employed two different styles of character design. One was simple and was designed to be used for drinking. These designs were mounted with pewter lid rims, with few or no body or lid protrusions, and were the mainstay of Schierholz’s character stein production. They are the easiest to find today as they were probably produced in larger number than other Schierholz styles. Most were decorated quite simply, often using the Schierholz trademark honey-toned coloration. This coloring system was raised to a new art form through its full utilization of the honey tones along with a clear white underglaze to create well-highlighted, lifelike features. No other porcelain factory has been able to achieve the same effect. Note also that this coloring artistry was not only limited to character steins but is also found on the more elaborately designed pieces.
The type of design that elevated Schierholz to the top of their field was created strictly for the sake of appearance rather than use. There was almost no limitation on the creativity of the designs on this type of stein. A design flow with a singular seamless form was the chief design principle. There are no lid rims to break this flow, no exterior capacity markings to detract from the look, and no limitation as to body or lid protrusions. Little thought was given to how many different mold parts it would take to create a particular design. The sole purpose was the creation of works of art. Of course, with all their protrusions, most of these character steins are virtually impossible to use for drinking. The complexity of these designs as seen throughout this book, are indicative of the effort that went into each Schierholz character design.
There was complete freedom to decorate each piece using Schierholz’s famous honey tones or any combination of colors deemed necessary to create a desired effect. The honey tones were so well done because of the unique method of using the white undercolor shades to create desired highlights. They were often able to create lifelike effects using just the single honey-toned color range.
Many times Schierholz decorated the same model differently. They often combined honey tones in some places with full color in other parts of the same stein. Examples of these include the Gentleman Fox and the Gentleman Boar (see figures ___). The face of the fox was usually decorated in honey tones while full color was used on the balance of the stein. A completely decorated fox in full color is a rarity. Schierholz made several color combinations of the Boar’s Head available. The face was decorated in honey while the remainder was decorated in full color. They also offered the entire stein decorated in full color.
Some Schierholz figurals that are normally found in honey tones can also be found decorated in full color. It is probable that these full-color pieces were special orders as they are generally rarer than their honey-toned counterparts. Here are some of the ones that have been encountered:
Sometimes the reverse is true: a character stein usually made only in full color is discovered in overall honey tones. Another method of popularly collected decoration features blue color on an overall white background. Many figures decorated in this way feature large blue circles forming an overall design, with the circles often accompanied by blue leaf or floral designs. In some cases, the blue acts as a shading effect over the white background. Perhaps the Meissen influence created the market for this type of decorating. It has been suggested that these were created for the Dutch market where blue-white color schemes were preferred. These designs were always done only in blue; never have any other colors been seen or reported. This coloration was found only on select subjects.
The following is a list of those known to exist:
Most Schierholz character steins were made in the ½ liter size. Among their direct- market items, the ½ liter size is very often the only one available. Certain characters that made up the mainstay of their line, like the Radishes, are available in a variety of sizes. The Sad Radish is available in sizes as small as 1/20 liter and as large as three liters, representing the largest and smallest reported to date. In certain instances, Schierholz would offer a character in the exact same physical size but marked with a different capacity mark. Certain 0.5L figurals would be marked 0.4L simply by lowering the capacity line. However, there are cases where Schierholz actually manufactured the same figural in both the 0.5L and the 0.4L size, with the actual body size of the 4/10 liter version being smaller. The Radish Lady and the Bismarck Head have been seen this way and are probably not just isolated cases.
Special order character steins made for companies like Martin Pauson and Jos. M. Mayer were made in whatever sizes were commissioned. Special orders are listed separately.
Schierholz & Sohn, like many other character stein factories, utilized the same character stein bodies with different lids, thus creating multiple offerings. The most prevalent example of this is their frequent use of barrel bodies with different lids. Numerous examples are included in the photo section of this book. This was also true of pigs for which they offered two different lid styles and two different body styles. These were available in different sizes, color variations, and base variations. A collector could start a separate collection of these alone. Famous people like Wilhelm II and Father Jahn were offered with different lids.
When Schierholz designed a character stein, they frequently designed a special handle to go with it. To them it was important that the handle complement the stein and be continuous with the design flow. Sometimes they would incorporate the braided hair of a female as the handle, other times it was a fish, or a jester, or even a simpler handle that could continue the flow of design via decoration. As a result, some character collectors display their Schierholz character steins so that the handles are visible.
In some cases Schierholz also integrated special thumblifts into the character design. The Nürnberg Judge has a special porcelain thumblift of a jester pouring knowledge into the judge's head. Many times the bowling pins and balls employ a special bowling ball thumblift. One special bowling ball carries a shouting pinboy thumblift. All of these were designed and made in porcelain and decorated accordingly.
In Schierholz’s productive years, the capacity mark and line became an important part of the stein's design. Most often it is applied to the exterior of the stein body so it can be easily seen. However, Schierholz did not like anything detracting from the design flow, so they rarely applied capacity marks to the exterior of the stein body on direct-marketed products. On the majority of their figurals, this line is applied on the interior of the stein, generally on the side of the piece. It is usually done in black paint and most often utilizes a decimal rather than a fraction. The typical liter mark would consist of a line alongside a 0,5L on a ½ liter piece (see figure __). They did use fractions on occasion. When the stein decoration was done in blue over white, the capacity mark was usually applied in blue. On occasion, this mark was placed lower inside the stein to make a normally ½ liter character into a 4/10 liter. The size of the stein would not change; only the capacity line would be altered.
Some Schierholz character steins have been seen with a capacity mark applied to the exterior of the body (see figure____). This often occurred on special orders but rarely on direct-marketed items. Regular-line pieces with these exterior marks are often figurals with some connection to Munich for example, Radishes that carry a special Munich thumblift. This probably had something to do with the vast souvenir market in Munich. Other regular-line pieces with exterior capacity marks are rare.
One of the many design tools available to Schierholz was the use of lithophanes in their figural bases. They were famous for lithophane production on other items within their line, so it was only natural to employ this device in character steins as well. Only a small fraction of their characters contain lithophanes. They are found in barrels, bicycles, bowling pins and balls, the Nürnberg Gooseman, the Mushroom with Dwarfs, Munich Childs, and the Nürnberg Funnel. A colored lithophane has been seen occasionally on bowling pin or ball. These were probably special orders.
MUSIC BOX BASES
In all probability, any Schierholz character could have been made on a music box base. In most cases, it was simply a matter of adding a 1 3/4 inch high scalloped band-box-style hollow base to an existing figural (see figure __). Many such steins have been discovered in their regular line, either seen in person or illustrated in one of their original catalogs. All the music box bases that are known are honey colored, even when they were applied to a full-colored character. But most of the Schierholz figurals found with these bases are decorated in honey tones. In one special instance, the entire figural was designed to have a special music box. This piece is the Pixie Head (see figure __). This stein was also made with a regular band-box music box base.
Even though Schierholz & Sohn produced a larger selection of character steins than any other factory, they thrived on special orders. They had the ability to create and manufacture almost any size special order and to supply characters in any form, size, or decoration. Many popular names such as Martin Pauson and Josef M. Mayer ordered specially designed character steins from Schierholz. In some instances, the Schierholz crosshatch mark accompanied the purchaser's marks. Some of the familiar special-order character steins are the Ludwig II Head, the Coffee Lady, and many Munich Childs. At this point in time many special order pieces have been identified, but there are others that are suspected but unconfirmed as yet.
Schierholz & Sohn very often did not mark their character stein bases. When they did, however, they used two specific types of marks. The most common mark is the word MUSTERSCHUTZ stamped onto the base, usually in green. It can appear in different forms: sometimes plain, sometimes in quotes, sometimes in a rectangular box, and sometimes in black script. This word really had nothing to do with the factory. It simply means that the design was protected, as does the English word copyrighted. But for many years, these steins were simply called Musterschutz steins, as if this was the factory's name. The other basemark sometimes found on their character steins is an elongated tic-tac-toe mark applied in a light to medium blue. When found, it is usually pocked and can sometimes be felt when touched. There does not appear to be any consistency in the use of this mark. In later years, other character stein makers did try to copy this mark, but familiarity with the original prevents deception. Simple advice would be to buy the stein, not the mark. A third mark found on Schierholz character steins is the shield & crown stamp (see figure__). This is generally found on character steins made in the late 1910 period. It has so far been found on the Schierholz Skulls and on the Innkeeper figurals. No other basemarks accompany it.
After World War II, Schierholz was located in the heart of East Germany. Very little production took place again until 1986. German collector and businessman Werner Sahm of Rastal-Werke visited Schierholz in Plaue and discovered that the company still owned many of the original molds from the turn of the century. He induced them to manufacture prototypes from two of these original molds. Schierholz still had artisans who could produce a good product, and the prototypes are extremely well done, although the colors are not the same as the originals since none were available to copy. Sahm arranged to have some reissues produced and Rastal offered them for sale. Not all of the characters were reissued. The cost to make them today is quite high. These reissues have not decreased the current market for the originals; in fact, they have made collectors more aware of how good the originals really are.
It is impossible to define all of the decorative traits on the reissues because today Schierholz has the ability to decorate any of their models any way they wish. Many figurals that only were available in honey tones originally can now be found in full color. However, the company has not as yet been able to duplicate the metallic golds and silvers found on some originals. The known reissues available as of this printing are listed below.
The discovery of the early Schierholz catalog pages was especially exciting because mold numbers assigned to each character stein. Most of their characters still in existence do not carry any numbers whatsoever. When mold numbers are found, they rarely match up to the numbers in the catalog. Therefore, we cannot place any real significance on any impressed base mold number found on Schierholz character steins.
Occasionally, painted numbers are found on the character base. Sometimes they are also found on the underside of the lid. It is possible that the number is simply a decorator's or bench number used to match the lid with the base so that Schierholz could supply a character with both the lid and body decorated by the same artisan.