Jardiniere, porcelain, made by Amphora Factory Riessner & Kessel, Turn-Teplitz, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary (Trnovany, Czech Republic), c. 1905
This jardinière offers one of the most striking designs created by Amphora, a Bohemian factory which was well known in Europe in the early 1900s for its decorative porcelain and earthenware, as well as for innovative glazes. It was designed in the Art Nouveau style (or Secession as the style was known in central Europe), the mainstream decorative style of design, visual arts and architecture between the early 1890s and the outbreak of the World War I in 1914.
Softly-modelled and sculptural, the jardinière's form relies on the playful interaction of curling water lily leaves and stems which support a reclining figure of a sleeping maiden, most likely a water nymph or naiad, with long flowing hair and draped in a clingy, wet dress. The jardinière is stylised to comply with Art Nouveau design ideals which emphasised natural shapes of depicted subjects by focusing on their curving structures and outlines; in this design the viewer's eye is encouraged to follow a tangle of sweeping lines that imbue the object with nature's 'living' energy and
also strengthen its erotic appeal. Obsessed with nature and its organic forms, Art Nouveau designs were also highly symbolic being inspired by Symbolism, a late 19th century literary and art movement. Figures of young women, usually with much flowing hair, were amongst the most popular Art Nouveau motifs. Whether symbolising eroticism, decadence or progress (in advertising), they derived from the idea of the femme fatale, the woman seductress, a concept reinforced by the dramatic roles of famous actresses such as Sarah Bernhardt, the iconic French actress and dancer of the period.
Amphora was founded in 1892 by Hans and Carl Riesser, Edward Stellmacher and Rudolf Kessel and the company was awarded a prize at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. In 1897, the firm began making art pottery vases showing elaborate Art Nouveau designs and was again recognised by awards at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. In 1905, the company introduced a new mark to reflect new ownership, that of Riessel and Kessel after Stellmacher's departure. Amphora wares were also sold in the United States by specialist shops including that of Louis Comfort Tiffany in New York, who appreciated the innovative hand crafted designs. Some of the most original and attractive designs were provided by talented students form the Imperial Technical School for Ceramics and Associated Applied Arts (act.1885-1917), unfortunately their names are unknown. This jardinière, which is incised with initials ESO, may have been designed and modelled by one of the artists associated with the school. The factory was nationalised in 1945.
Eva Czernis-Ryl, 2009
The vase was made by the Amphora Factory Riessner & Kessel at Turn-Teplitz, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary (presently Trnovany, Czech Republic), c. 1905.