It’s All In the Marks: Pitchers and Plates

The swastika on the side of this pitcher has nothing to do with Nazi Germany.

To well-seasoned or novice collectors, determining a maker or origin of a piece can be very confusing if it is outside their normal area of interest. Any markings that can be found can often help unravel the mystery—if you know what the marks mean.

If you don’t, however, they can lead you well astray of the truth. In this series of Q&A articles, I’m going to answer the questions I hear most often regarding marks on antiques and provide a straight path off an often-twisted trail.

“I have a pitcher with a large swastika on the side of it. It’s blue and white in color, and there are no other marks on it. I picked it up at a flea market where they told me it was brought back from Germany after the Second World War, and it had belonged to some high ranking Nazi. I have no way of proving this story, but wondered it there is any truth to it?”

Actually, it’s quite a yarn and based on a common misconception. The fact are this, the swastika in this case has no link at all with Nazi Germany. The type of swastika found on this piece is a quite ancient symbol used worldwide by many different cultures that predate the Nazi movement by thousands of years. The word “swastika” itself comes from the Sanskrit word “svastikah,” which means “being fortunate.” So the swastika as is used on this pitcher is actually a good-luck symbol. Pitchers like this tend to be American and low-cost utility ware for domestic use and in most cases seldom marked. Utility ware like this was sold through mail-order catalogs and general stores, and some were “premiums” to be given away with a purchase of flour, soap or lard. The swastika symbol could be found on a great many items until a variant of it was made into a symbol of terror and oppression by the Nazis during the run up to World War II.

This Delft ware plate was made in small batches and is likely quite valuable.

The marks on this plate denotes it as Jacoba pottery.

I picked up this odd-looking wall plate, and it is a real puzzle. It’s marked “Delft” but looks like nothing I’ve ever seen called Delft. The mark on the bottom is carved into the clay, with a Delft mark under the jar with “TL” inside and an “AK” on the lower right. On the lower left are “C” and a “W.”

One could understand your confusion. This piece is certainly not what one thinks of when one hears the term “Delft pottery.” Looking at your images and the marking, this is an example of “Jacoba,” circa 1900, made by the well-known company Porceleyne Fles (Porcelain Jar), better known here as “Royal Delft.”

Royal Delft was founded in 1635 and is the Netherland’s most famous delft factory. It is best known for its traditional blue and white pottery with depictions of harbors, windmills and sailboats. Each piece is generally coded with the factory mark, item number, artist’s initials and a date code.

The whole Jacoba earthenware program was developed and designed by Adolf Le Comte beginning about 1897 and never made in large numbers. With Jacoba pottery, the design is drawn directly into the clay and then partly colored in with colored glazes. It was made for just a short period of time by Porceleyne Fles, from the turn of the 19th century until some time in the 1930s, and the range included tiles and plaques as well as pots and vases. It would be a good idea to have an appraisal for this piece, as examples like this have been know to sell for over $1,000 at auction

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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