Q: The picture of a fancy pitcher in our local newspaper reminded me of a fancy pitcher we have. We would like to know as much about it as possible — age, origin, value. The mark on the bottom is unclear.
A: The information about the company that made the piece is wildly contradictory, but thanks to the website of the Cleveland Hungarian Heritage Museum (plus some other sources), we think we have a handle on the subject.
This piece is hazily marked "Fischer J" over the word "Budapest," and that along with the ewer itself — which is a vase-shaped "fancy" pitcher — tells us the story.
Ignac Fischer began his career at his father's pottery in the village of Tata-Tovaros, which is about 43 miles northwest of Budapest, the Hungarian capital. In 1864, Fischer became employed as a decorator at the famous Herend factory in the city of the same name.
Fischer founded his own factory in 1867 in the town of Pest, across the Danube River from Buda — together they form Budapest. Fischer's company made replacements (i.e., copied) dinnerware based on 18th-century Chinese and European designs. Fischer also produced decorative ceramics in the Chinese manner.
But Fischer and his company will probably be remembered most for the wonderful reticulated faience wares such as the one in today's question.
First, let us explain "reticulated," which in pottery and porcelain terms generally refers to pierced work resulting in patterns — in this case a floral design.
The ewer is a double walled vessel, and an artist cut through the outer wall to form an intricate interlacing pattern of flowers and arabesques and created areas for cartouches or blank areas surrounded by an ornamental frame. Inside the frame, artists in this case painted scenes of butterflies among flowers and herons wading in a wetland.
In addition, this piece is a type of pottery called "faience," which is typically an earthenware glazed with a formula containing tin oxide to make it white. But it also occurred with colorful glazes that contained lead.
The mark found on your ewer was reportedly in use from 1867 to 1895.
The ewer is artistically attractive, but this kind of ceramic is a tad out of fashion at the moment. If this piece is 12 to 14 inches tall, it should be valued in the $750 to $1,000 range.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques.