In France, where wine is a common part of daily life, it was once customary to serve vin in a little jug like the one above—just a glass (or two) of a typical, cheap and utterly delicious table wine, often purchased from a basket on the floor of the neighborhood "Maman et Papa" grocery store. I have always admired those cultures which do not attempt to exalt wine beyond its humble status. No fuss. No pretension. No multitude of differently-shaped wine glasses (one for each specific "varietal"). Rather, I applaud those who pass the little wine jug along with a tumbler and a shrug. "What's the big deal?"
This Art Nouveau wine pitcher, made in Turn-of-the-Century France, is signed Charles Gréber (1853-1935). In 1846, the Gréber family moved from Austria to Beauvais, France (about 50 miles north of Paris). They were a family of sculptors, builders and ceramicists. In 1870, Johann Peter Gréber opened a stoneware manufactory in Beauvais—a village well-known for its excellent sandstone clay and history of notable ceramics-making since the Middle Ages. In 1880, Johann retired, handing the business to his two sons, Charles and Paul. When their father died in 1898, Paul left to start his own workshop and Charles continued operating the family business in Beauvais. Charles began to manufacture glazed ceramic architectural pieces: fireplaces, interior decoration and ceramic building façades. The Art Nouveau Movement, all the rage in Paris, greatly influenced the aesthetics of the workshop's new designs. Besides the larger, architectural elements, the Gréber studio continued to produce useful ceramic household items, like the little jug shown above. Like much of Charles Gréber's works, it exhibits strong Art Nouveau sensibilities: a naturalistic, voluptuous shape, a stylish "whiplash" handle, and an organic, dripping glaze of navy blue, moss green and tan. Whether you would use it for serving wine or employ it as an accent piece with a larger collection of ceramics, that's up to you. To learn more about it, please click on the photo above.
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 Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or 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