Q: I have some questions about the stamp on my tea set. It is from Russia and the decoration is Russian winter. I am attaching pictures of the mark.
A: We have been answering questions like this for almost 30 years now (yikes!), and this is the first time we have ever received an inquiry about an object from this rather famous porcelain factory.
We asked you to send us pictures of the actual tea set and have used one of those rather than an illustration of the mark. The mark is in red and features a double-headed eagle surmounting a circle with the image of St. George slaying the dragon within. Around the outside in Cyrillic is the identification of the factory, which was established by Englishman Francis Gardner in 1766.
That year, the Russian College of Manufacturing gave Gardner permission to start a porcelain factory in the village of Verbilki, located in the Dmitrov district of Moscow Province. Gardner had spent time scouting out the location of the necessary raw material in Russia, but he realized that to be commercially viable he needed to scout out the European competition, as well.
It is said that he sent his son to Western Europe to acquire models of Meissen and Sevres porcelain, but he also needed skilled workmen. It is reported that some “Russian noblemen” sent some of their serfs to work in the European factories to learn the necessary skills. It is also said that the serfs were unpaid.
Early on, Gardner began successfully competing with the Imperial Porcelain Factory that began under the auspices of Peter the Great but did not really prosper until the mid-18th century. Gardner tended to fashion his product according to the purchaser’s purse. Imperial commissions were lavish, while items sold to lesser human beings could be far less so. Lower-end decorations might consist of initials, a wreath and a sprig or two tied with a ribbon or perhaps a bouquet of flowers.
The Gardner family remained in control of the factory until 1892, when it was sold to Matvey Kuznetsov. After the Communist Revolution it was renamed after the town of Dmitrov, and when communism fell in Russia, the factory resumed its original name of Gardner.
The mark found on your tea ware was in use during the late 19th century. Some sources suggest Kuznetsov may have continued using it. The design of the porcelain does appear to be late 19th or even early 20th century to us, emphasized by the presence of flower finials rendered in a turn-of-the-century manner.
The hand-painted winter scene is bleak, but the sprigs that frame the scene suggest perhaps the promise that spring will follow. We do not know the extent of the tea set, but if it consists of a tea pot, sugar bowl, cream pitcher and eight cups and saucers, the retail value might approach the $4,000 to $5,000 range.
Q: My wife inherited this vase from a friend in 1980. Imprinted on the bottom is a beautiful logo that says "Victoria-Carlsbad-Austria." We are hoping you can tell us something about the origins of this piece.
A: This is a beautiful piece of late Victorian porcelain that unfortunately is completely out of fashion with current collectors.
We hate the circumstance because it's a piece that should wow the viewer. But instead, it is often seen as being too fussy, too grandmotherly and out of step with 21st-century style. What a shame!
The piece is marked “Carlsbad, Austria,” but that is a bit misleading. Carlsbad (sometimes spelled “Karlsbad”) was a town located in Bohemia, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time the piece was made. After the end of World War I, Carlsbad became Karlovy Vary, Czechoslovakia (later Czech Republic).
Carlsbad was the well known center for Bohemian porcelain. Sometimes factories outside the city proper would use the place name in its mark just for the association in the marketplace. The two-handled vase in today’s question was actually made in Altrohlau, Bohemia (modern-day Stara Role, Czech Republic).
Stara Role is just 71 miles west of Prague, which is very close to Carlsbad/Karlovy Vary. The mark on the piece is in a blue oval that is extremely well known to collectors because the company was prolific, making everything from fairly expensive pieces to items just for household or hotel usage.
The factory’s name is Porcelain Factory “Victoria” Schmidt & Co., founded in 1883. Among other things, they made souvenirs for the St. Louis World’s Fair and cities such as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. They made fish sets, chocolate sets, dinnerware, desk furnishings, oyster plates, biscuit jars, cake plates, match strikers, cabinet plates, tea wares, urns and vases.
Most (if not all) the wares are transfer-printed, and the company appears to have been trying to produce wares similar to but much cheaper than those produced at the Royal Vienna Factory, which had been in the fine porcelain business since the early 18th century. Collectors probably mark down the “Victoria” products from the company because there is little that is original and most of it was mechanically produced.
Still, this rococo-influenced piece with its white reserve of putti cavorting through trailing flowering vines has some visual pizazz. The value of the piece depends very much on its size, which we do not know.
If it is 12 inches tall or more, we feel it should have a value in the $85 to $110 range. If the size is smaller, the value could fall by around half.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques. Do you have an item you’d like to know more about? Contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or e-mail them at treasuresknology.net. If you’d like your question to be considered for their column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus, with your inquiry.