THE FAYENCE AND PORCELAIN MANUFACTORY AT HÖCHST
The present sconces or Blakers, together with the marginally smaller two now in the collection of the Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt [Inv. Nr. X122271 a & b], form a set of four, each from the same mold with a dragon on the left and an eagle on the right of the rocaillle-molded cartouche, the central landscape decoration painted in monochrome puce. Each a masterpiece of mid-18th century Rococo decoration, they are the only such wall lights extant in fayence.
These four large-scale wall lights, made at the ceramics factory at Höchst-am-Maine (now a western suburb of Frankfurt), were intended as a set for Johann Friederich Karl von Ostein, elector or Furfürst of Mainz 1743-1763 and the man who granted the factory an electoral patent in 1746. A smaller set of two with Schwarzlot landscapes is known. However, lacking the dragon and eagle issuing from the brightly colored shell cartouche, they have none of the bravado appeal of their considerably larger cousins.
Given the importance of the person in whose house these were to be displayed, it seems natural that the delicately painted landscapes be attributed to the hand of Adam Friederich von Löwenfinck, part owner of what was to be a new porcelain manufactory. Löwenfinck had specialist knowledge of pottery and porcelain, but no capital. Partnering with Goeltz and Clarus, two merchants with no knowledge of the business but with funds to invest, the new venture was born with the support of von Ostein. Von Löwenfinck was slowly pushed from the factory by his partners and, by 1749, had left the factory.
Interestingly, production started with fayence rather than with porcelain, but of a delicacy and fineness not generally associated with pottery. Indeed, Löwenfinck called it faïence-porcelain. And from a distance, the present pair of wall lights easily read as porcelain, with all of the sculptural detailing and bright colors associated with the harder translucent material.
The dating of these masterworks to 1748-49 and the attributions of the decoration to the hands of particular artists can be made with confidence using their combined marks as confirmation. Each has the Höchst factory mark of St Catherine’s wheel. Friederich Hess, whose mark of a painted H appears on the back of the Schwarzlot pair in the MAK, departed Höchst and returned to Fulda with his young son Ignaz by Spring 1750. An IZ for Johannes Zeschinger is also found on these two. Zeschinger is known for the bright plumage on fayence parrots produced at Höchst, many of which are known in museum collections including those from the Pfleuger Collection now at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The Schwarzlot landscapes have been attributed to the hand of Joseph Philipp Dannhöfer, recorded at the factory 1747-1751.
That the hand of the painter responsible for the puce landscapes is not that of the Schwarzlot painter can be easily seen. That the head of the factory should paint the scenes on the larger two sconces seems natural – given that they were destined for the elector himself. Ostein Hof, the ruler’s palace in Mainz and the assumed destination for these decorations, was built 1747-1752 and decorated with a Rococo flair, the height of fashion at the time. One can easily see how these Rococo wall lights would have fit right into the decorative scheme planned by the architects Johann Valentin Thomann and Anselm Franz Freiherr von Ritter zu Groensteim, chief architect to the court at Mainz.
The program of artists involved in the decoration of these large wall lights and the ability to precisely position them within the oeuvre of a new commercial enterprise are interesting details in their history. But it is the finished product that stands out – the balance of colors, the asymmetrical modeling – the combined efforts of master artists creating what at the time would have been a cutting-edge contemporary set of lights, meant to call attention both to the wealth and taste of the owner and the ingenuity of local production of which Mainz could be proud.
THE BLOHM COLLECTION
Self-proclaimed “born collectors”, Otto and Magdalena Blohm first developed their enthusiasm for 18th century porcelain after the 1904 Great Exhibition at the Kunstgerwerbemuseum in Berlin. Only 34 and 25 at the time, Magdalena remarked that "The specimens shown there...filled us with such enthusiasm that we felt compelled, as the youngest and humblest of collectors, to try to obtain admittance to this illustrious circle. We would have to learn a great deal...to become experts in our chosen field." To this end they befriended Max Sauerlandt and Justus Brinkckmann, curators at Hamburg’s Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, as well as other collectors, welcoming them into their home at 36 Havestehuder Weg on the Alster. Shying away from the more popular collecting categories at the time, they chose to focus on the unusual: early Meissen, Commedia Dell’Arte and dwarf figures, and interesting examples from lesser-known German factories.
Though a large portion of their collection remains on permanent loan to the Hamburg Museum, before his death in 1944, Otto devised a plan to sell a significant amount at auction after his death, so that other young collectors could experience the enjoyment of owning such pieces. The present wall lights were a part of this initial consignment, held a Sotheby's in London after the death of Magdalena. Subsequent sales of both their collection and that of their son Ernesto were held at Christie's in London in 1989 and 2007.