Hungarian Zsolnay Ceramics

Ask any Zsolnay Ceramics collector to describe this European line of art pottery in just one word, and you’ll surely hear capture-20140405-061117“iridescent”. Initially, this Hungarian family set out to create stoneware that was functional and utilitarian. A decade after being founded in 1853, Vilmos Zsolnay entered the family business and learned how his father’s business worked. Over the course of another decade, Vilmos brought the company to heights his father had never dreamed possible. World fairs and international exhibitions followed and so did the awards. Eosin porcelain became the dominant material and as the company grew, so did the Zsolnay family. Julia Zsolnay, Vilmos’s sister, married and her husband soon joined the business.

Even though the family artists had their own distinctions, there’s no denying the seamless look and feel. The pottery, as mentioned, was mostly iridescent in appearance and many of their creations can still be seen in various landmarks and buildings throughout Hungary.

The iridescence is due to a process called “eosin” and it’s a hallmark for many artistic efforts during this time period (at the turn of the century). The eosin works as a glaze and gives it a certain metallic look, but the magic is found in the different colors that are anything but static. Adjust the piece slightly and what was purple becomes red. It’s a lovely presentation and as collectors can attest to, highly sought after.

The Zsolnay Hungarian art pottery centerpiece, shown above, has the eosin glaze and depicts a woman trying to capture fish. It’s a larger piece and is in mint condition. It measures an impressive 11 inches in height and measures 14 inches wide. It’s a beautiful effort that’s quite detailed. This is just one of the Zsolnay Pottery offerings that are available right now. Be sure to explore our complete inventory.

Like many companies, the various wars took their tolls on the company and the Budapest location was bombed. For a while, before being sold, the family tried to re-introduce durable and useable stoneware, but by then, there was just no turning back. The company was sold. In recent years, the family has begun to rebuild the Zsolnay Porcelain Manufacture. Two years ago, it partnered with IKEA. While it may never revert to the true European art pottery company, what we’re left with is an impressive body of work that’s highly sought after and deeply respected around the world.

Van Briggle Pottery Special Lines

Throughout the history of Van Briggle Pottery, there have been unique lines, known as “special lines” that incorporate all the beauty and attention to detail the art pottery company is known for, but also provides collectors another opportunity to add to their collection a truly unique piece.

Over the years, items such as candlesticks, plaques, plates and even bookends are made in limited numbers. One example are the Siren of the Sea plates. It’s believed Anne Van Briggle created these as part of her final efforts before selling the company. Each piece has a mermaid in various positions, though usually draped over the design. In one, the mermaid sits on the rim of the plate, leaning on one arm. She’s finished in the same color glazes as the plate or bowl.

Women in general seem to be a common theme in these special lines. Between the mid 1930s and mid 1940s, there were a few pieces including Daydreamer, where a woman is wearing a cape and with her head bent, appears to be looking down. Lady of the Lake, finished in a matte blue glaze, is kneeling on her knees looking into a pond or lake with a turtle that appears to be looking in her direction. Yet another bowl includes a woman with calla lillies and there’s even a Native American woman depicted in one of these designs.

They’re truly lovely and are often quite detailed. There are very interesting vases with the openings depicted as bears that appear to be peering into the vase opening. There are a series of American Indian busts, too.

The glazes run the gamut and to suggest there’s a common theme would be inaccurate. Beautiful and dramatic bronzes, the matte blue in the mermaid series, greens, golds – there are many. There are high gloss pieces, plenty of flat or matte pieces and even a few with an iridescent finish.

To be sure, this is quite the varied showcase. Many are kept in a museum, though there are plenty in private collections as well. They’re prized possessions and little wonder so many Van Briggle fans are always on the lookout.