A look at the design, market and legacy of Victorian pottery

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

French Animal Pitchers

One of the most popular--and competitive--areas of majolica collecting is in French figural animal pitchers.

Every imaginable type of animal is represented on these pitchers from cats and bunnies to rats and lobsters. They were largely the work of the Sarreguemines and St. Clement factories but were also created by Frie-Onnaing, Fives Lille and other smaller potteries on the continent. They've proven so popular, in fact, that they are still being made today. (More on that later on in this blog.)

The pitchers bring very good prices at auction with the more unusual pitchers often bringing in excess of $500. The Sarreguemines animal head pitchers are probably the most sought after of them all, routinely bringing $800-$1200 at auction.

Some of the animal pitchers, with small alterations, can also be found as bottles.

Often sold as Absinthe bottles, there's no proof that I know of that connects the highly addictive liqueur with the bottles though it is true that they were sold as containers for some kind of liqueur. 
The bottles usually bring about the same prices as the pitchers with some of them having their own decorative cork stopper.

About Reproductions
As I mentioned earlier, many of these pitchers are still in production by the St. Clement pottery. To add to the confusion, St. Clement purchased the molds to many of the Sarreguemines pitchers and is reproducing them as well. They are being sold as reproductions by the factory, but unscrupulous dealers will often try to pass them off as antiques. There are ways, however, to tell the new pitchers from the old.

There's a very good article on this on the Shantique Gallery Web site. Here are some highlights from that article showing the things to look for:
  • Very glassy, glossy, glaze.

A very acid lime-green [glaze] used on the piece.
  • The wrong model numbers:  Most old St. Clement animal pitchers will have a 3 digit model number or a 3 digit with a slash and another number (222/4).  Please note, I said "most", not all.  There are a few rare examples of 4 digit animal pitchers.  The new animal pitchers usually have a 4 digit number.  For instance, the new cat pitchers carry the number 7486 on the base, while the old one has the number 525. The new monkey pitchers bear the number 7490 while the old ones have 435.

  • A Sarreguemines mold marked St. Clement: The two Sarreguemines molds used by St. Clement that I see most often in on-line auctions are the "Boar" (or Sanglier) with the number 5285 and the "Pink Pig" (or Cochon Rose) with the number 3318.  These are both Sarreguemines model numbers, but the pitchers are marked with St. Clement marks.

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