The first museum to mount an exhibition of its kind, the Nevada Museum of Art
presents Monsters and Maidens: Amphora Pottery of the Art Nouveau Era, opening Saturday, Nov. 14. Featuring snarling dragons and sea creatures, medieval maidens and lily pads, the exhibition is a rare opportunity to view the intricate and delightful works of the Amphora Pottery Company, created between 1892 and 1918. This first-ever museum exhibition of Amphora Pottery consists of approximately 20 pieces of porcelain and ceramic vessels including vases, planters and urns from the extensive collection of Dr. Byron Vreeland.
In the United States, the popularity of Amphora Pottery soared during the late nineteenth century as demand for decorative objects increased, said Ann M. Wolfe, Curator, Nevada Museum of Art. It is surprising - given its popularity that this unique and sometimes bizarre form of pottery remains relatively unknown today, except by a handful of collectors. We are excited to bring these more unusual and rarely seen works to the spotlight.
Greatly influenced by the artistic and literary movements of the time, including Art Nouveau, Symbolist and Secessionist Art, Amphora Pottery came about due to a rare combination of historical and political events in late nineteenth century Bohemia. Following the countrys inclusion into the Austro-Hungarian Empire, an influx of skilled German immigrants combined with Bohemias Celtic origins, its thousand-year history, and rich culture fueled the creative synergy that resulted in the birth of the Amphora Pottery Company in 1860. Founded by Alfred Stellmacher in Turn-Teplitz, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), thousands of remarkably imaginative and delicately-crafted ceramic vessels were created. Renowned for their high quality, the works produced by the Company were frequently recognized at World Fairs and expositions resulting in increased access and popularity across the globe.
Amphora Pottery is made using a dieor modelcarved from clay and polished smooth. The die is then fired and used to create a plaster-of-Paris cast that is filled with refined clay and swirled to create a half-inch thick model. Once the inner model dries, the cast is removed and the clay is carved, glazed and fired. It is believed that the pieces in existence today are practically impossible to reproduce due to the prohibitive costs and time involved. Female faces were a popular motif used in Amphora pottery as many portrait pieces were influenced by themes and motifs from mythology, literature, and religion, portraying women as magical nymphs, dancers, and virgins. Insects and fantasy creatures, such as dragons, were also frequently portrayed.
Among the most sought-after of Amphora portrait pieces, the rare Spider Woman vase (pictured above) depicts a woman with closed eyes and long golden tresses, whose face is framed with a butterfly headdress, golden crown, and a spider web. Four opals have been affixed to further ornament the piece. The Bat Planter (pictured above) is one of the rarest and most ambitious objects made by the Amphora Company due to its large size and the intricacy of its design and ornamentation. Advertisements for the Bat Planter appeared in many German-language magazines around 1905. Only four examples of this piece are known to remain in the worldone of which is in the National Museum in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Monsters from the seasuch as squid, crab and octopus (pictured above)were popular motifs for vases that were eagerly sought by collectors enamored with dragon-type imagery.
This exhibition features stunning examples of Amphora Pottery from the Southern California collection of Dr. Byron Vreeland. The Nevada Museum of Art is grateful to Dr. Vreeland for generously participating in this project and for lending the objects for this exhibition.