Dear Helaine and Joe:
This vase belonged to the aunt of a friend of mine. It is 13 inches tall and the gold trim on the flowers and leaves is raised like it was applied with an outlining brush. We hope you can tell us about its history and its worth.
P.B., Burnet, Texas
This vase looks neoclassical in form with its winglike handles and funnel-shaped base. It is tall for its genre, and it is decorated primarily with a bouquet of colorful flowers, leaves and buds.
What may not be quite so visible in the photograph is the rather strange, matte-finished gold patch that appears to contain representations of two bluebirds on the wing. It is a bit odd, but it does add a touch of richness to what would otherwise be ho-hum floral designs.
We may have no idea why the decorators decided to add this little golden vignette. But bluebirds were a symbol for the coming of spring and used on a wide variety of dinnerware made during the early 20th century both in the United States and Europe. Bluebirds were also symbols for tranquility and happiness.
The mark is located on the bottom, mostly inside the funnel portion of the foot. On the flaring part of the base is the word “Bonn.” That tells the story. The rest of the mark (not easily seen in the photograph) is an oval, shieldlike reserve with fancy initials and the number “1755” inside, a crown and the word “Royal” above.
This is the mark of the earthenware factory Franz Anton Mehlem, which was founded in Bonn, Germany, in 1836 and is commonly known as “Royal Bonn.” Mehlem made household and decorative pottery plus some pottery used for technical applications. It also made sanitary wares (bowl and pitcher sets, soap dishes and the like) as well as some decorative porcelains, which included reproductions of figures originally made by the famous 18th century Horst factory.
The factory was sold to Villeroy & Boch — famous for its Mettlach wares — in 1921 and finally closed in 1931. The particular mark found on P.B.’s vase was in use from about 1890 to 1920, and we believe the vase is circa 1910 or so.
Collectors tend to like the Royal Bonn pieces that have exquisite figural work and rich background colors. Larger sizes do bring better prices. (We have seen vases as tall as 47 inches and palace urn on stands at more than 70 inches.) Royal Bonn is also famous for its tapestry surfaced wares and clock cases.
The vase belonging to P.B is upper middle range in quality and has a good size. It should be valued for insurance in the $200 to $300 range.