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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder

I found this piece at the local op shop. It was $40 and I ummed and arrgghhed for about 1min before clutching it tightly to my chest and walking up to the counter.....
or rather the end of a line of about a dozen people....
each one staring at my prize that clearly said,
"are you mad, that thing is hideous!"

I asked Craig to drive home while I sat nursing my precious in my arms.

It is a table centrepiece made in the Hugo Lonitz factory in Germany in 1880. Tastes have changed obviously and it's not what everyone would grace their sideboard with but I worked for fine china houses for many years and I am in awe of the entire manufacturing process of this piece.
It is not an over-statement to say it's a work of art.

It spans 56cm (22") from tip to tip. I'm guessing that there was some sort of flammable support for these huge outstretched arms to prevent them collapsing in the kiln. It would have held the soft porcelain in clay and burnt away in the high temperatures of the first firing.
The second amazing feature about this piece is that it is made entirely in one piece, a very, very difficult manufacture with a very high attrition rate. This is not a massed produced piece, it's a wonder of it's own manufacturing process AND it has survived 130 years and a couple of world wars!
The artistic process is finished with beautiful blending of colour and hand painted flowers in the bowl itself and delicately gilded to enhance rather than overwhelm the piece.

It hasn't quite survived unscathed though, and here ladies and gentleman is another remarkable talent at work.
This centrepiece weighs about 4kg (8lb) and all that is sitting on a broken "foot". From this angle you can see the repairs undertaken many, many years ago using large staples to stabilise and strengthen. There are not many who know how to repair in this fashion any more. Another art about to be lost.
These sort of repairs are another clue to the value of the piece because most damaged china is discarded unless it is a special item.
The Hugo Lonitz factory was particularly known for Majolica pieces and must have had a wonderful set of skilled craftsmen. I have not been able to find any examples so far of this type of work but similar pieces with similar damage are still offered at auction for about $1300 to $1500.
I love that this prestige piece has found it's way to my little home and though tastes may change, my dear Mr. Hugo Lonitz, I pay homage to your artisans and treasure it still.


  1. Amazing!

    How would they go about getting staples into that? Someone before you cared about it a great deal too. Wonder where it has been before!


  2. It does have a certain elegance in the second photo.

  3. I think it's beautiful! We should shop together! Shall I come to Australia or shall you come visit Ga, USA?

  4. Zoo Keeper if you ever get over this way, I'ld be happy to show you a thrift shopping good time!

  5. Congratulations on your gorgeous find! I love stories like this. You saw it, and recognized its value, not just monitory.


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