Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks & Makers' Marks
Hanau Silver in the "Antique Style"
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Hanau Silver in the "Antique Style" and Its Marks|
by Jörg Müller-Daehn
Hanau companies have caused a lot of confusion amongst collectors, art historians and dealers of silverware. What follows
is meant to shed some light on the history of this segment of Hanau production and to provide some information on how to tell Hanau reproductions from genuine antique pieces.
I. History of the Hanau silverware industry
That history is for the longest part not different from what happened in other German cities at the time. Goldsmiths and silversmiths were often wealthy and, consequently, tax payers of high interest to the local authorities. The Hanau city father's, seeking to increase the town's economic base, lured Masters from other parts of Germany and from other
European countries, most notably from the Netherlands (since the end of the 16th century) and from France (after 1685) and a
whole new city was erected since 1597 to house them: "Neu-Hanau" (New Hanau). The French continued to work in their traditional style, which made the pieces exportable to France and all countries that preferred the French style. According to Hegemann, it seems that many of these pieces were not marked with the Hanau city mark, but with a mark that resembled that of Paris, much to the dismay of French makers and authorities. It also seems that Hanau makers cared little about the local hallmarking regulations, using silver of a fineness below the legal standard of 12 Lot (equals 750/1000 fine) and selling the pieces as "French". There is some indication that even back then they also imitated foreign hallmarks, though nothing definite is known today about this. The years 1600-1800 economically brought a lot of ups and downs (mostly downs) to the industry and it was not until the first decades of the 19th century that the Hanau silverware industry began to flourish again.
Neresheimer nef c.1907
II. J. D. Schleissner goes to town
Johann Daniel Christian Schleissner (b. 1793 - d. 1862) came from an old Augsburg family of goldsmiths and moved to Hanau in 1816 or 1817. He produced pieces in the Augsburg style, was quite successful and exported a lot of his wares to Russia, France, Austria, the Near East etc. His success brought other makers to
the city and helped reestablish the Hanau silver industry. But it was Schleissner's son Daniel, who became the driving force behind mass production of silver in the antique style. Daniel Philipp August Schleissner (b. 1825 - d. 1891) was a great admirer of the renaissance, baroque and rococo period. He had studied many private and public collections of genuine old silver and had aquired intimate knowledge of the silver of these periods. He was both a painter and a silversmith, was a widely traveled man (e.g. he had lived in the United States until 1861, working for a silverware factory in Attleboro, Mass.) and had a keen eye for modern production methods and for the demand of clients. He started moving just when the time was ripe.
J. D. Schleissner & Sohne display
1893, Chicago World's Fair
The industrial revolution had brought wealth to many people worldwide, Germany had acquired additional wealth from France, which had to pay huge sums as a result of her defeat against Germany in the war of 1870-71. People everywhere wanted to show their wealth, building lavish homes and filling them with expensive, heavily decorated objects; furniture, carpets, all kind of antiques, among them silver objects. Schleissner realized that not enough genuine old objects were on the market.
So why not produce the silver in the antique style that people demanded? A simple idea, but he was one of the the first to actually put it into practice. He used the genuine old pieces from the collections he knew as models for his pieces, partly copying them, partly combining stylistic elements of various periods to create a style yet unknown - the "antique Hanau style", also called "le style Schleissner". If one tried to define that "Hanau style" one might say that it is characterized by a combination of stylistic elements dating from ca. 1650 to ca. 1800. One can find elaborate architectural, bucolic or romantic scenes or elaborately pierced edges with swags and scrolls, framing portrait medallions. Often one finds combinations of those elements. Pieces were generally heavily decorated to meet the taste of clients from the late Victorian period and of clients from following generations. At first Schleissner's production methods were kind of old fashioned. The pieces were handbeaten and chiseled, a somewhat slow process. As demand grew rapidly, more and more pieces were made from cast silver, a method which is much quicker. Finally almost everyone in Hanau made antique silver that way and until today this method is widely used. Another method used was the mechanical stamping of thin silver sheets and then assembling these various elements together. Schleissner was very successful, and others followed in his path.
Until the first decades of the 20th century, the Hanau silverware industry grew dramatically. While in 1825 only 23 persons worked there, their number rose to ca. 1000 in 1848 and to almost 3000 in 1907. It is not known how many pieces were produced in Hanau, but as pieces in the antique style regularly appear on the market, their number must have been quite high.
J. D. Schleissner & Sohne
To create the impression that these objects were really old, Schleissner also copied their marks, although slightly changing them. He probably also did this as not to collide with the various local German hallmarking laws of the late 19th century (or with the laws of the countries he exported the pieces to). That is why on most Hanau pieces in that style, made after 1888, one does not find crescent moon, crown or numerals for the fineness. Schleissner was not the inventor of those "pseudo marks", but was certainly responsible for their wide use and the irritations these marks cause. Back then it was difficult, if not impossible, to tell these pseudo marks from genuine old marks. Research on old silver marks had not begun until the last decades of the 19th century. Marc Rosenberg, one of the founding fathers of this type of research, published his first book on the subject in 1890 and little had been published earlier. Small wonder that for a long time people did not realize that Schleissner and most of the other manufacturers in the Hanau silverware industry were using pseudo marks.
J. D. Schleissner & Sohne
III. How not to be fooled by pseudo marks
Can pieces in the antique style, marked with pseudo marks, be considered forgeries? That is a matter of discussion. Hanau makers never claimed to produce
"genuine old objects", they mostly referred to them as copies "in the antique style" ("im antiken Genre"). But Hanau makers cared little about what the many antique dealers, selling those objects, said about these objects. It was an open secret that many of those dealers falsely claimed pieces to be really old, thus fooling their clients. Another point: quite a few of the Hanau objects were made without any marks at all and were sold to retailers, antique dealers etc. in this condition. Who could know (or care) what kind of marks the dealers would finally stamp on the pieces?
Hanau makers openly stated (and state until today) that they knew nothing about these dealings, had nothing to do with this and that they fully regarded the German hallmarking laws. Again that can be a matter of discussion. German modern hallmarking laws, in force since 1888, have a sort of loophole: they simply don't state whether it is legal or not to use old or pseudo marks instead of the marks as defined by those laws. Possibly the politicians who made those laws never even had the idea that a maker would want to use pseudo marks instead of the official marks. Even today there are two schools of legal thought about this: one says, if it is not expressly allowed to use pseudo marks, then it is forbidden. The other school says, if it is not forbidden, then it is allowed. As there is no central assay office for the whole of Germany (and there never was one), no official cared or cares about the problem involved. And the makers probably just hoped (or hope) that nobody was going to sue them for forgery.
Hanau Silver Tankard
Silver in the antique style was and is also produced in the Netherlands and Italy and other countries. The Dutch pieces may have correct Dutch marks or forged old Dutch marks (the latter which often can be identified by consulting the book by Citroen listed below). The Italian pieces usually have correct Italian marks. If trying to identify a Hanau piece one should try to find a match with marks as shown on this website or with marks as published in the books mentioned below. A good many pieces can thus be identified. Experience has shown that genuine old pieces are quite rare and that pieces in the antique style, even if the maker cannot be identified, usually date from ca. 1870 onwards to well into the 20th century. Sometimes one can find an importer's mark added to the pseudo marks, which may help with the dating.
The marks on old or seemingly old pieces should be compared to marks published in books on old silver. Pseudo marks usually show recognizable differences to genuine old marks. On Hanau pieces in the antique style one can also find combinations of marks from different periods, different cities or even different countries, combinations which could never appear on genuine old pieces. So comparing marks is an essential part of identification. If no match for the marks is found in the literature, well - in that case it is suggested that no unfounded statement be made about the piece. Judging the style of a certain piece is usually of little help as to identifying maker or age. Hanau pieces were meant to look like old pieces of the renaissance, baroque or rococo period, so they were designed in those styles. Hanau makers also copied objects of other Hanau makers, so there was little recognizable individual style. Of course there were also Hanau makers, who later produced in the Art Nouveau or Art Deco style. But these pieces were not punched with pseudo marks, they have marks according to the German hallmarking laws.
Neresheimer Jewelled Casket
IV. One last thing
Hanau pieces in the antique style, even if the fineness is not stated, were and are usually made with a fineness ranging from ca. 12 Lot (before 1888, equals 750/1000 parts fine) upwards to 835/1000. Sterling is rarely used, usually only on pieces made for export to Britain and the United States. When testing the metal with acid (chromic acid), please note that this test is considered unreliable. It is not meant to indicate the fineness nor to tell silver from silverplate. Originally is was meant to tell silver AND silverplate from other
silvercoloured metals like polished pewter, polished steel, nickel- or chromium plated metals etc. If the surface of a silverplated piece is in good condition, then the test will suggest a silver object, as the acid just reacts with the surface, not with the base metal. This will lead to a falsely positive identification of the piece as being made of silver. A correct identification in this case is only possible if the piece is willfully damaged: the silverplating is partly removed to reveal the base metal (cautionary note: this can dramatically lower the value of the piece!), which reacts with the acid in different ways than silver. This damaging method should therefore only be considered if it REALLY matters to find out what metal the object was made from. In all other cases: leave it be and enjoy the beauty of the piece as it is, regardless of the material.
Hanau Silver Sauceboat
(most texts are illustrated, knowledge of German is required)
1910: anonymous "Das antike Genre", article in "Deutsche Goldschmiede-Zeitung" (one of just a very few articles published on Hanau production in the antique style, with information on its development from many industry insiders. No illustrations)
1916: Lorenz Caspari "Die Entwicklung des Hanauer Edelmetallgewerbes von seiner Entstehung im Jahre 1597 bis zum Jahr 1873" (privately printed, no illustrations. The first thorough study on the history of the Hanau metalware industry until 1873. Very little info on silver in the antique style. Mostly based on documents now considered lost)
1962: Hans-Werner Hegemann "Hanauer Gold- und Silberschmiedekunst seit 1800" (short, informative study. Some objects, but no marks are illustrated)
1976: Wolfgang Scheffler "Goldschmiede Hessens. Daten. Zeichen. Werke" (the first, thorough and essential study on Hanau marks, found on pages 399-546. Documents hundreds of genuine old marks and of pseudo marks, just a few objects. Contains little information on the history of the Hanau industry in general)
1982: Ina Schneider / Ekkhard Schmidberger "Hanauer und Kasseler Silber" (another short study on the subject, with very little additional information. Very few marks are documented)
1983: E.-L. Richter "Altes Silber - imitiert - kopiert - gefälscht" (the basic German study on imitations and forgeries not only of Hanau silver, with some illustrations of objects and marks)
1985: K. A. Citroen "Valse zilvermerken in Nederland" (Language: Dutch. Second edition of this basic study on forged Dutch marks. Illustrates some objects and many forged Dutch marks. Useful even without knowledge of Dutch)
1988: Günter Rauch / Ina Schneider et.al. "450 Jahre Altstädter Rathaus" (contains articles by Ina Schneider and B.-W. Thiele on the history of the Hanau industry, with some additional informations. Documents many objects. Lists Hanau makers and their marks until 1988. The list is far from being complete, marks are badly drawn, the dates sometimes are incorrect)
1992: Bruno-Wilhelm Thiele "Tafel- und Schausilber des Historismus aus Hanau" (the essential study on Hanau silver in the antique style. Contains a wealth of information, reprints many old photos of objects taken from company archives, has lists of makers, designers, goldsmiths etc. and their marks, many not documented by Scheffler)
Some material for this essay was taken from material provided by members of the 925-1000.com Silver Forum, most notably by forum member blakstone. Thanks !
| Legal disclaimer:|
Text and pictures in this article are meant to be a first
introduction into the subject of Hanau silver in the antique style
and its marks. In no way is this article meant to give a thorough and / or
flawless study on said subject. No responsibility whatsoever is
taken for actions undertaken by anyone using the informations contained here.
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