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Amphora - An Often Overlooked Art Pottery

Nic Saintey, Head of the Ceramics Department, writes about Amphora, an art pottery that was responsible for a real diversity of output during its 25 years or so of existence, ranging from the neo rococo and Secessionist to the strikingly abstract.

The names Alfred Stellmacher or Riessner, Stellmacher & Kessel, Paul Dachsel or Ernst Wahliss are not really household names amongst most domestic ceramics collectors but mention the umbrella organisation of Amphora that existed from 1890-1915 and they become that little bit more recognisable.

Eduard Stellmacher Amphora vases.

Eduard Stellmacher Amphora vases.

Founded at some point around 1890 in the cities of Turn and Teplitz (then part of Bohemia, but now Czechoslovakia), Amphora was responsible for a real diversity of output in it's twenty five years of existence, ranging from the neo rococo and Secessionist across the board to the strikingly abstract. Curiously, almost all of Amphora's eclectic output didn't stay at home, but was exported across wider Europe and particularly America.

It was Alfred Stellmacher who was the catalyst for the group. A talented potter and modeller who had exhibited at the Paris World Exposition of 1879 and won plaudits at the 1893 Chicago World Exhibition with Riessner, Stellmacher & Kessel taking the Grand Prize at the St Louis World Fair in 1904.

However, whilst output was wide and varied, one could attribute a good body of the work to individual potters on stylistic grounds.

The pottery produced by Eduard Stellmacher (Alfred's son and partner in the Riessner, Stellmacher & Kessel concern) tended to favour the sinuous female form that often had something of the magical, monstrous or fairytale about it, primarily in porcelain, although earthenware was also used.

Amphora pottery vases by Paul Dachsel.

Amphora pottery vases by Paul Dachsel.

Paul Dachsel was more influenced by naturalism and the flora and fauna around him, although he could also put something of a fantastical or exotic spin on his subject matter and was also responsible for many of the 'abstract' Secessionist forms working primarily in earthenware.

Finally, there is the work of Ernst Wahliss who, whilst he started out producing copies of traditional and popular Viennese works, became the most eclectic of all the Amphora concerns using porcelain, faience and earthenware.

Amphora for the London retailer Max Emanuel - the Lucky Master Cat.

Amphora for the London retailer Max Emanuel - the Lucky Master Cat.

Perhaps the most bizarre group of items that bear the Amphora mark are the 'cubist' cats made for London retailer Max Emanuel, but so far I have been unable to ascertain who was responsible for making them - shame really as they are quite enigmatic beasts. Many bear the impressed name Louis Wain, but perhaps they are nothing to do with Mr Wain or Amphora?


  • Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood
  • Art Pottery Auctions
  • Amphora
  • Alfred Stellmacher
  • Eduard Stellmacher
  • Riessner, Stellmacher & Kessel
  • Paul Dachsel
  • Ernst Wahliss
  • Max Emanuel

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About the Author

Nic SainteyNic Saintey
Ceramics and Glass

Nic Saintey has been a director of Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood since 2003 and heads up the Ceramics and Glass Department. He is part of the team specialising in Chinese ceramics and works of art.

Nic's first career was in the Armed Forces where he served both as a military parachutist and paramedic. He joined a firm of Somerset auctioneers in early 1995 and Bearnes during a period of expansion in June 2000.

His effervescent nature, sense of humour, broad knowledge and experience has seen him appear as an expert for BBC television programmes. He undertakes regular talks to both academic and general interest groups talking on subjects as diverse as Staffordshire pottery and pop culture, Chinese porcelain and the troubled relationship between Britain and the Orient, the English drinking glass and the Donyatt potters.

He is an occasional contributor of articles for national and local publications and is equally fascinated by the stories attached to pots as he is about the objects themselves.

His personal interests include Oriental and domestic pottery, but especially that produced in the West Country.

Accompanied by his Lurcher Stickey, he is a keen Moorland walker (but only in the winter), an increasingly slow runner and a chaotic cook who always eats his own mistakes and, yes of course, he collects pottery!