The first book on Amphora Pottery

Monsters and Maidens
Amphora Pottery of the Art Nouveau Era

by Dr. Byron Vreeland, a noted collector and researcher.

From the front cover flap of the book:

Amphora is an Art Pottery that was produced from 1892 through at least 1918. This book covers the period from 1892 to 1905 when the Company was a participant in the Art Nouveau movement. The pottery stands out from all others in its combination of delicate craftsmanship combined with remarkable imagination. Amphora is noted for delving into Symbolism, Art Nouveau, Secessionism, and all of the Austrian movements, while at the same time, producing ordinary ware for people with more conventional tastes.

There were French potters who did sophisticated Art Nouveau pottery, and potters like Martin Bros. who produced marvelous grotesques, but Amphora did both. At the same time, they produced a wide range of imaginative designs, which would appeal to a wide range of the population and keep the Company competitive in an industry famous for bankruptcy.

The Company was located in Teplitz, Austria, and the work is signed Made in Austria. Many people refer to the pottery as Teplitz, but this is inaccurate, as there were possibly 30 manufacturers in the city at the time. It was listed in the Chicago Exposition of 1893 as Reissner, Stellmacher & Kessel, Turn-Teplitz (Bohemia), Porcelain goods. The advertisements of the day called it Amphora.

Amphora is a rare combination of events. Bohemia had become a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire by this time and there had been a great immigration of skilled German craftsmen into the country. The partners were of Germanic origin, with backgrounds from Thuringia and Dresden, Germany. Bohemia, however, had centuries of independence and had a rich culture. It had a Celtic origin. It had powerful Monarchies and famous kings and queens. It fought off powerful invaders with a fierce army. When the Hapsburgs assumed power around 1850, Bohemia already had a thousand years of culture and a history unique to itself. The culture of the Czech people combined with the skill of the German immigrants possibly were the catalysts for this unique pottery. Amphora is not widely discovered as yet. There are a group of collectors, each person with his or her taste. Monsters and Maidens focuses on the Symbolist and Art Nouveau segment. This would be the Portrait Vases, highly detailed images of beautiful women, rich with gold. Also pictured are the Monsters - large and small grotesque creatures, who on closer examination are usually humorous. The other ware is shown, some very special and some not. It is also a goal of the book to document the Company during these years, and to introduce this special ceramic to those who would like to know it better.

More about the book

The book includes an index, bibliography, and five appendices as well as the table of contents. It starts with a brief history of Amphora and goes into the fabrication and decoration processes. It then moves into the beginning of Amphora, the main artists and the Company. Examples of each period and type are provided. There is also a section on the molds and markings and information on how Amphora was marketed.

About the author

Byron Vreeland was born in Los Angeles, California. He worked in his early years at Hal Roach Studios. He attended UCLA and graduated from USC. He later studied Architecture at UCLA. In the late 1960's he began to build houses that featured the use of Gothic relics and colored and beveled leaded windows. His interest in leaded glass led him to the work of Tiffany Studios. His interest broadened to the unusual world of Symbolism and Art Nouveau and by 1976, he had become associated with Don O'Neill at United Arts and Antiques in Beverly Hills, an exclusively Art Nouveau gallery. It was here that he was introduced to Amphora Pottery. In the mid '80's he became associated with Robert Zehil at his Beverly Hills Gallery, until 1991, when Mr. Zehil returned to France. Since that time he has devoted his time to building several houses in the Art Nouveau style and continuing to collect decorative arts. His first purchase, the green Venom-Spitting Dragon is still with him after 25 years.

About John Cobabe

John Cobabe is the pre-eminent dealer of Amphora pottery. He has a booth at many of the antique shows across the United States and is an acknowledged authority on Amphora. He has been asked to speak about Amphora on numerous occasions at colleges and other forums interested in this fine art. He is a primary source of Amphora in the world and provided many of the pieces photographed in the book.

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