by Jim Kempster
Attempting to reconstruct the past when only scraps of information are available can be a great challenge. Consider the case of the dinosaur Iguanodon. In 1820, Mary Ann Mantell found a large tooth while out walking in a local quarry. She showed it to her husband who noted its similarity (except for size) to the tooth of a living iguana. He reasoned that it had come from a very large creature never seen before, and the first "dinosaur" was named. Partial skeletons of Iguanodon were soon found, and these included a large spike which was placed on the nose (in rhinoceros style) when the animals were reconstructed. Only much later, when even better fossils were unearthed, was it discovered that the spike was actually the Iguanodon's "thumb" from its front feet. It's purpose is still only conjectured.
Solid information about Reinhold Schlegelmilch's porcelain exported to North America prior to 1890 is just as scarce as dinosaur thumbs. By searching the illustrations in the few surviving trade catalogs from that era, Lee and Carol Marple, with help from fellow collectors and enthusiasts, have suggested that the earliest RS products that can be identified with confidence are the pieces decorated with the so-called "applied large dots."
Many of these are stamped with the "R.S. Arrow" mark, and the Marples have succeeded in connecting these marked examples to later marked R.S. pieces through a series of objects sharing either form or decoration. Objects decorated with the large dots disappear from the trade catalogs around 1889. Unfortunately, catalogs only began to carry illustrations a couple of years before this time, and so we run out of information.
In the 1893 edition of the Coburg Directory, there is an advertisement for the R.S. company in which their specialties are noted, including "Dew Drop" or "Pearl" porcelain. It seems reasonable that this is the name given at the time to the products that are decorated with the dots of glaze over a white bisque body. There are two distinct styles of dots, large ones that occasionally run together, and smaller ones that are often applied very close together without running. It is my opinion that the difference was caused by improved technical skill in handling the liquid glaze. The exact method used to apply these dots is not known. I have heard those who believe they were applied one at a time using a brush with a single hair. Reinhold was a clever businessman and innovator, and I suspect the glaze was more likely delivered through a fine tube to a pen-like device. The dots were still applied one by one, and care would be needed to keep the glaze from dribbling as the pen tip was moved from one dot to the next. The consistency of the glaze would be critical to successful application. At first, the drops were large and spaced further apart, but as they gained experience, the formula for the glaze could be adjusted and the equipment improved to the point where a fine and consistent finish could be applied at a reasonable (profitable) rate. Occasionally I have seen pieces where it was difficult to say whether the dots should be called small or large. Just like the dinosaurs, these are perhaps transition pieces that show the evolution of the process. In the pictures that follow, I have tried to show the range of known examples of this product line. Also shown are several pairs of objects, one of which has the dew drop finish while the second is decorated with another documented R.S. décor.
These pieces decorated with HP 2 in pink come from two partial toy tea sets, or perhaps demitasse sets. The teapot is 5.25 inches tall and the matching cups are 2 inches tall.
The cup on the left is 2 inches tall, while the one on the right is 1.75 inches tall. The plates (not shown) that match the cup on the left are 4.25 inches in diameter, while those that match the cup on the right are 3.75 inches in diameter. In the original catalogs, some of these sets were listed as children's sets but it was noted that they were large enough for adult use.
The photos above show the 5.25 inch tall teapot from the set decorated with large dew drops, and a matching pot from another set with a different hand painted décor.
This potpourri jar (or rose jar as they were originally called ) also has HP 2 as its décor in addition to the large dew drops. The pierced lid that completed a rose jar is missing in this example. Rose jars were made in several sizes, ranging up to 6.5 inches tall.
These mold A12 cake plates are 11 inches in diameter. The first one has large dew drops and HP 7 stylized floral décor. The second plate has hand painted small pink flowers. This mold has long slightly convex sides alternating with shorter concave sides.
These 3.5 inch tall sugar bowls are also in mold A 12. The first one has large dew drops and blue floral HP 3. The second bowl is decorated with HP 9. The handles are quite similar to those in the children's tea set shown earlier.
The same blue flower HP 3 and large dew drops are used on these two items. Note how the floral design can be adjusted to fit the proportions of different items because it is entirely hand painted with no outline transfer to follow. The same elements appearon each piece, but the placement has been adapted to fit the space available.
This pitcher has the same shape as the pitcher above it (with three spouts), but has a simpler hand painted décor.
These two pitchers are both in mold A 13. The taller one is 6.5 inches high, and is the only piece I have seen decorated entirely with large dew drops without a floral design. The other pitcher, at 3.5 inches, is the smallest example of this mold I have seen, and may have come from a children's set. It is decorated with very simple "cookie cutter" flowers and vines. This décor is often seen on children's china from Reinhold's workshops.
Here is the matching four lobed pitcher in décor HP 3. Examples of this shape are known from 3.5 inches tall to 8.5 inches tall.
This partial breakfast set (or milk and mush set as they were called) is missing its pitcher. The décor is large dew drops with HP 1 with its butterfly like the horn shaped pitcher shown earlier. The dew drops on the pitcher are quite large, and here they are smaller. Is the difference caused by the experience level of the artist, or improved equipment?
In the photo of this domed butter dish in mold A 12 with HP 1, the butterfly is seen more clearly. The distance from wing tip to wing tip at the top is 1 inch. The legs and antennae must have been painted by a steady hand with an extremely fine brush. You can also see in this close-up how the dewdrops were applied after the butterfly had been painted. The first row of dots follow the outline of the butterfly, then the placement becomes more random away from the butterfly.
This 11 inch diameter cake plate in swirl mold A 6 is decorated with cobalt leaves, and white flowers that are covered with small dew drops as shown in the close-up. In this case the dew drops have not been applied over a bisque background but have been used to add detail and interest to the flowers which are glazed.
RS porcelain produced after 1894 is almost always decorated with outline transfer (OT) designs that replaced the earlier hand painted designs. It is possible to find examples of the molds used early in this period that are still decorated with dew drops, but they are always the small type. Eventually this expensive technique was probably abandoned in favour of the simpler and cheaper coloring-book style decorating that did not require such skilled workers. They were the deluxe items in their time, but like the dinosaurs found out, time moves on.
Many thanks to Delores and Larry Gilbert for providing pictures of dew drop porcelain from their collection to expand the range of examples available for this article.
Copyright 2009-2012 Jim Kempster
The large dew drops were used on a full line of objects from the 1.75 inch cup from a toy tea set to the 13 inch ewer. The stylized floral design on the cup is designated HP 2 (Note HP=hand painted). The leaf design on the ewer is seen quite often, but has not been assigned a number. In a separate article I show another ewer in this same mold manufactured by the Royal Worcester company in the same time period as this one.
The two 11 inch handled cake plates are both in mold A9. The first one has the same large dew drops and leaves as the ewer shown above the plates. The second plate is decorated with a hand painted outline transfer scenic design that is believed to date from around 1890. The leaves and berries in the mold are hidden by the design applied to the first plate. The wavy lines appear to have been applied by hand to the surface of the porcelain using a method similar to using an icing bag to decorate a cake. These lines are often gilded.
This 7.75 inch wide covered butter dish in a swirl mold has smaller dew drops, but has the same overall décor as the two pieces shown above.
The cup and saucer set also has the dew drop and leaf décor on a swirl mold.
These 3.9 inch creamers are in mold A 15. The first one has the large dew drops and HP 2 décor, while the second is decorated with HP 6 décor. It would be interesting to know how the prices of these two creamers compared considering the amount of labour that must have gone into decorating the dew drop piece.
The cups in these two sets are 2.5 inches high, and the saucers are 6.4 inches across. The first set appears in the G. Sommers & Co. fall 1888 catalog, at a price of $6.00 per dozen sets. The décor of the first set is large dew drops with HP 2. The décor of the second set resembles blue ivy geraniums, and has not been seen on any other item so far. The second cup is marked with mold and décor numbers 975/9887.
This box measures 7 inches by 4.75 inches, and is 5 inches high. It is decorated with large dew drops and pink flowering branches. Much more care has been taken in the shading of the flowers in this design than in the "cookie cutter" flowers on the little pitcher. Much of the decorating of the inexpensive pieces was probably done by unskilled laborers, even children. Pieces like the box however look like the work of a more talented hand with more time allowed for fine details and delicate shading.
The 11.75 inch pitcher is identical in shape to ones made by the Royal Worcester works at about the same time. It is decorated with large dew drops and a floral design HP 1 that includes a butterfly just visible at the left edge of the pitcher. Its "horn" handle is porcelain.
This second ewer is 9.5 inches tall, and is decorated with small dew drops, which means it is probably from a later date than the first pitcher. The handle has the form of coral, a detail that appears on other RS pitchers and vases from this period such as the bird vase on a swirl mold. It too is decorated with small dew drops.
This cup and saucer set is in mold A 17 with its swirls, and is decorated with smaller dew drops and HP 7. It matches one of the cake plates shown earlier.