A Family Affair



Austro-Hungarian "Amphora" Four-Handled Vase with Hand-Painted Secessionist Decoration (LEO Design)


In 1892, in Turn-Teplitz, Bohemia (now called Tronvany, Czech Republic), a family group of ceramicists and other artists formed the ceramics studio Riessner, Stellmacher & Kessel (sometimes called by its nickname, Amphora).  Alfred Stellmacher (born in Thuringia, Central Germany) had developed an improved clay material which allowed him to create porcelain flowers—even better than the French, winning him a Gold Medal at the 1889 Paris Worlds Fair.  Stellmacher formed RSK with his son, Eduard Stellmacher, and three sons-in-law: Karl Riessner, Hans Riessner, and Rudolf Kessel (most of them trained artists).

The workshop's location in Northern Bohemia, close to the German border, gave the studio access to newly-minted ceramicists from The Imperial Technical School for Ceramics & Associated Applied Arts in Dresden (an important center of ceramics technology and production).  One of these Dresden students was a brother-in-law, Paul Dachsel, who became RSK's Artistic Director.

Dachsel was the driving force and tastemaker for the company—now in the full throes of the Austrian Secessionist Movement.   Under Dachsel's creative drive, RSK won numerous medals and awards including Best in Show at the Columbian Exhibition (World's Fair) in Chicago (1893) and San Francisco (1893) and at the St. Louis World's Fair (1904).  This worldwide exposure greatly increased the demand for RSK's works throughout Europe and in America.  Tiffany, in New York, was one of the merchants that carried RSK ceramics in America.

In 1904, Paul Dachsel left RSK to form his own ceramics studio. After he left the firm, the artistic and innovative momentum slowed, though the company continued to produce new designs (including Art Deco offerings).  For a while, they continued to produce Dachsel's Art Nouveau/Secessionist designs.

Until the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed in 1918, Bohemia had been an important creative contributor to the greater Empire.  While Bohemia certainly took artistic cues from the capital, Vienna, it also contributed much artistic manufacturing output to the greater Empire—especially in the realms of ceramics and glassworks.  Naturally, World Wars One and Two depressed RSK's luxury business worldwide.  And the Nazi Germany annexation (invasion) of Czech Sudetenland in 1938 also disrupted production.  RSK continued to operate—although with less innovative vigor—until 1945, after the War, when the re-established Czechoslovakia nationalized the company.

The four-handled Secessionist vase, shown above, was made circa 1905, probably right around the time Dachsel left the company.  Its bulbous form is decorated with four "flying buttress" handles, four spherical "knobs," and hand-painted with "earthy bubbles," reminiscent of a Viennese Gustav Klimt painting.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com)

We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248