It’s All In the Marks: Art Nouveau Washbasin

This washbasin, purchased years ago near Watertown, NY, came from the D.F. Haynes & Son Co. in Baltimore.

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. Here’s one:

“My great uncle has this washbasin and wants to give it to me. He says, near as he can remember, it was purchased new by my great grandmother from a local store near Watertown , N.Y. I’d like to know how old it is, if it has any significant value and whether I should worry about insuring it.”

This is a late Victorian washbasin, and like many of this period, it is in the Art Nouveau style. Art Nouveau was noted for its use of naturalistic decoration of whiplash curves, trailing vine and florals.

The style was very short lived, beginning as an offshoot of the Arts & Crafts Movement during the late 19th century and peaking about 1900 at the world’s fair in Paris, the Exposition Universelle.

The fair drew 51 million people and this style could be seen used in the construction of buildings, furniture textiles, jewelry, pottery and metal wares of all sorts. It was most prevalent in the pavilion exhibition by Siegfried Bing, an art dealer who coined the phrase by naming his art gallery “L’Art Nouveau” in 1895.

The style remained popular until about 1914 and the beginning of the First World War, when it began to fall out of favor in a rapid decline at that point.

The marking on your piece belongs to the D.F. Haynes & Son. The company first used this mark in 1900, with the “cordovan” mark indicating the pattern and mold name. The company was originally formed by David Francis Haynes in 1879; his primary interest being the production of affordable art pottery.

Haynes purchased the Chesapeake Pottery in Baltimore in 1881-1882, and the new company traded as D.F. Haynes & Co. The name changed to Haynes Bennett & Co. when it merged with the Edwin Bennett Pottery Company in 1890. In 1895 Hayne’s son Frank joined the firm, and the company was renamed yet again as D.F. Haynes & Son.

The full wash-stand set of a D.F. Haynes & Son Co., bears all the marks of a typical of Victorian Art Nouveau style pottery.

Like the style used to decorate this basin, D.F. Haynes & Co. did not survive as the pottery went out of business in 1914.

This basin was once part of a much larger set, including a number of pitchers and urns of various sizes. The biggest demand for sets like this are for English Staffordshire “flow blue” examples, while the demand and values for pieces made in the U.S., like yours, are generally a good deal less.

Wash-stand sets like this, as well as individual pieces, were very popular when the demand for Victorian decorating peaked in the late 1990s, but values and demand since then for all types of Victorian items have dropped a great deal.

In the case of your basin I would not be concerned about insurance coverage on its own, as its value would be under $100.

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

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