Ask a Worthologist: The Mystery of the Hungarian-Italian Vase

WorthPoint member Ben N. bought this vase at a church fundraiser and discovered it carried conflicting marks. Turns out it was a pretty good find.

Ben N. claims to know nothing about antiques; he just buys what he likes and, to date, he’s done very well when he’s researched what he’s brought home. His latest piece is one he found in a church fundraiser for $100. Ben contacted us via WorthPoint’s “Ask a Worthologist” service to inquire about this piece, and his inquiry was forwarded to me:

“I tend to pick up things like this vase that catch my eye, and invariably after I get them checked out, they are not the junk people who sold them to me thought they were. This vase, I’m sure, is one of these cases. This one had an old adhesive-tape label that looked like it had been on it for years. It was marked in ink “from Italy, Capodimonte.” After I got it home, I had to soak the vase in warm water to get the tape off, as I wanted to see if there were any company markings on it. There was a worn section like someone had tried to drill a hole and the word “Budapest.” Seeing how this was labeled Capodimonte, I’m curious why the real mark says Budapest, which I know is not located in Italy.”

Here’s my response:

My best guess about the label is because somebody at some point looked at few antique guides and compared the over-the-top-style of this piece to Italian Capodimonte, which it does resemble in some respects. As you’ve already surmised, though, Budapest is certainly not in Italy. I would wager the worn section on the bottom was an aborted attempt to make this vase into a lamp, a common practice with old vases after the Second World War.

Based on your images, this piece most certainly is a late 19th-century example by Ignác Fischer. Fischer originally trained at his father’s pottery in Tata-Tóváros, Hungary. Fischer founded his own studio at Budapest in 1864, and originally he decorated whiteware china from other potteries, beginning production of his own pieces by 1867. Fischer specialized in highly decorated ornamental pottery, often with a lattice-like piercing, as can be seen on this piece. His pottery made pieces for both the domestic Austrian/Hungarian market and for export.

Fischer’s work was well received, winning awards at the Hungarian Exposition of 1885. Success was short lived, though, as his company was absorbed by its rival, the Zsolnay factory, located in Pécs in southwest Hungary.

As for value, you got very good deal. At auction, a comparable piece by Fischer or his rival Zsolnay would go for about $350.

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


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