Q: Read your column in the Miami newspaper and thought you might be able to help me. This plate was found in an old house in my country of origin — Peru. Is this piece really as old as the 1742 date found on the back? Any idea of the origins of my piece and what is the value?
A: Many forms of ceramics made around the world are dated. Rookwood pottery comes to mind, but in England such companies as Minton and Worchester used systems that relied on symbols and codes.
It is extremely rare to find a piece of pottery or porcelain that bears a date in numeric form, but it does happen. Unfortunately, on most occasions a numeric date (1709, 1810, etc.) is the date of the company’s supposed founding, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the date the piece was made.
The piece in today’s question is a tray that has what appears to be a pewter rim encasing a circular bottom that was made from either pottery or porcelain. With respect to the 1742 date, the pewter rim is relatively modern. Its handles and fluted rim could not possibly have been made earlier than the late 19th century.
But what about the ceramic insert? Could that have been made in 1742 and fitted into the pewter mounts some 150 plus years later? Sadly, the answer to that question is a resounding, “No!” These trays with the ceramic insert bottoms are fairly common, and most were made in their entirety between 1890 and 1925, and this one is not an exception (in our opinion).
This piece was probably made somewhere in continental Europe. In the absence of a mark, our guess is in either France, Germany, or the Czech Republic, with such companies as Sarreguemines and Villeroy & Boch being among the contenders for the maker. We have seen the pottery inserts for these trays made by both of these two famous companies, but they are only possibilities, not certainties.
We cannot be 100 percent sure from the photographs, but we feel that the insert is pottery and is probably a type known as “faience.” This is (generally) a type of tin-glazed earthenware that was meant originally to mimic Chinese hard paste porcelain.
We like the beautifully rendered poppies found in the center of this tray, which is primarily in a style known as “Art Nouveau,” or “Jugendstil” in Germany, “Secession” in Austria-Hungary, and “Stile Liberty” in Italy. This art movement had its beginnings in France in the 1880s but began flourishing internationally in the 1890s. It began losing its impetus by about 1910.
Art Nouveau was based on naturalistic forms and the sensually curved line is its hallmark. The poppies on this tray have some rather jarring straight lines on their stems. This suggests to us that this piece is probably rather late (say circa 1910 or even a bit later) and was not made by an important or well-known company.
This leaves us with the question: Is the tray hand painted? We think the answer is probably, “No.” We believe the decoration is in all likelihood transfer printed, but there is no way to be absolutely sure without examining it in person with a magnifying glass (R.L. might try this and look for small dots in the decoration, which are one of the hallmarks of transfer prints).
For insurance replacement purposes, we believe this tray should be valued in the range of $85 to $110.
Write to Joe Rosson, P.O. Box 27419, Knoxville, TN 37927, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you'd like your question to be considered for the column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus.