RS Prussia porcelain has been popular in the United States for over 100 years. During the height of their production and popularity, the mold designs were quite ornate and lovely and a good number of them show a strong Art Nouveau influence. The pieces are decorated with transfer designs that are quite lush and eye-catching; the most desirable pieces incorporate portraits or animal motifs, though the floral designs are nevertheless quite lovely too. They were sold for premium prices in their day; RS Prussia has never been “cheap”.
Reinhold Schlegelmilch opened a factory in Suhl, in the province of Thuringia Germany in 1969. In 1894 he opened a second factory in Tillowitz in upper Silesia, Germany. Both of these areas had plenty of raw materials to create hard-paste porcelain. Interestingly, there is some confusion today about another company in the region; several sources list Erdmann Schlegelmilch as Reinhold’s brother and fellow porcelain manufacturer. However, the book RS Prussia: The Formative Years by Leland and Carol Maple says that Erdmann was no relation and not connected to RS Prussia porcelain- he simply had a nearby factory and the same last name as Reinhold.
The items produced by the RS Prussia firm between 1900 and 1910 are by far the most popular with collectors, and the easiest to find. The 1900-1905 was the height of the Art Nouveau designs they created and thus arguably the period of production that is most sought after today. Before around 1900, RS Prussia was rarely exported into the united states; after 1910, the previous ornate molds were entirely replaced with plain, undecorated molds. 1910-1915 production however is reasonably priced in comparison to the higher priced and more popular early period. In 1915, the Shul factory closed due to WWI.
The system of marks used by RS Prussia is complex and confusing. Suffice it to say that opening a book and spending some quality time researching is your best bet if you would like to learn more about them. A whole article could be written simply about the subject. The mark that is most recognized by collectors today is the Wreath and Star, usually two color, with the words RS Prussia. However, there are a host of other marks, and many, many pieces were not marked at all. For the experienced collector, the unmarked pieces are as desirable as the marked depending on their motif. Many of the transfer patterns are instantly recognizable, as are many of the mold shapes. A reference book on RS Prussia is very helpful for those, especially for the collector who is just starting out.
Some of the harder to find pieces are the Four Seasons, which depict a lovely Gibson style girl in a landscape that matches the season. For instance a chocolate pot with Winter on it books for $3,500. Also popular, and desirable, are Murillo painting reproductions like “The Melon Eaters”, and “The Dice Throwers”-both of which depict groups of you, chubby, almost cupid-like boys. There is also an extremely hard to find transfer of Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch”. There are other portrait types of RS Prussia, with images of Gibson girls and lovely Victorian ladies, all of which are excellent and highly prized pieces.
Scenic transfer designs are also desirable- for example, there are various landscape transfers like “The Castle”, or “Cherry Blossom Time”, which are also popular with collectors and not terribly common. There are also some bird and animal designs, which can range from very, very hard to find and quite desirable like “Tigers”, to more typical (yet still collectable) swan motifs. The prices can range from multiple thousands to the mid-hundreds. Ostriches are definitely a find; parrots are another popular pattern, but not quite as much as the ostriches.
The typical floral transfers are beautiful and ornate, brilliantly colored usually and often with “shadow leaves” (a common RS Prussia transfer motif). The shadow leaves are basically a silhouette of a leaf that blends into the background- it almost looks like someone put a leaf on the item and spray painted around it, leaving a soft silhouette of negative space. The floral motifs are popular, but much more common and less highly priced that the other designs RS Prussia created. Depending on the mold, however, they can be quite desirable. They also are more easily accessible for the new collector- one can build a nice collection of floral design items for the price of one figural motif piece.
One very hard to find, and absolutely stunning mold is the “Hidden Image” bowl- a woman’s face hides in the shape of the piece surrounded by flowers. The hidden image mold is very Art Nouveau looking- it is much more asymmetrical than most RS Prussia. A rule of thumb is that the more ornate and deeper relief the mold, the better. (This is of course not always true).
RS Prussia has experienced a lull of interest in the past couple of years- consequently this is a great time to start collecting. You are likely to find items under book value out there, and plenty of merchandise to choose from. An educated collector has an advantage. I would highly recommend doing some reading on this fascinating area of porcelain. Check out the series of books by Leland and Carol Maple. They include RS Prussia: The Formative Years and RS Prussia Wreath and Star.
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