Antique paintings on porcelain plaques are reaching record prices these days. They have the great advantage, when compared to paintings on canvas or wood surfaces, of retaining their original color and texture indefinitely. Paintings on porcelain appear as fresh and as vibrant as the day they were painted, even after one hundred years or more. By definition, they tend to be small, sometimes miniatures, as larger plaques were prone to breaking during the firing process necessary to set the paint permanently onto porcelain. Their subject matter was mostly copies of well-known and desirable paintings by renowned artists of the time or old masters. Porcelain manufacturers such as KPM and Hutschenreuther sold blank porcelain plaques to porcelain decorating studios or independent painters who specialized in this kind of work. In other words, the painting itself was not done by the porcelain maker’s in-house artists. KPM plaques can be recognized by the KPM initials and scepter mark on the reverse. Hutschenreuther marked some its plaques with the letters CMHR inside a shield or circle. Unmarked Hutschenreuther plaques can be recognized by their size coding system: a three digit code for rectangular plaques and two digits for oval plaques.
Below are three examples of paintings on porcelain plaques, all copies of larger-scale works by well-known artists:
—KPM Porcelain Plaque Painting of Jan Hus at Constance Council after Karl Friedrich Lessing. KPM porcelain plaque painting of Jan Hus at the Council of Constance after the 1842 monumental painting by German Romantic artist Karl Friedrich Lessing (1808-1880). The original painting is part of the Städel Museum collection in Frankfurt, Germany and measures 121 by 179 inches (308 × 455 cm). The scene shows Bohemian Protestant reformer Jan Hus (1371-1415) defending his faith knowing full well that it will result in his being burned at the stake. The plaque is marked on the underside with impressed KPM initials and scepter. It also has an impressed capital H letter (usually found on older plaques [c.1850]).
—Miniature Portrait Painting on Porcelain of Madame Recamier after François Gérard. Extraordinary Madame Recamier miniature portrait on oval porcelain plaque after the famous1805 painting by French neoclassical artist François Gérard (1770-1837). The original oil on canvas painting by Gerard is part of the collection of the Carnavalet Museum in Paris and measures 88 by 58 inches (225 cm by 148 cm). Oval porcelain plaque is signed on center right border, illegible. Unexamined outside of frame, maker unknown.
—Miniature Portrait Painting on Porcelain of Young Neapolitan after Gustav Richter. Neapolitan boy miniature portrait on oval porcelain plaque after the original work by German 19th Century painter Gustav Karl Richter (1823 – 1884) entitled "Junger Neapolitaner" (Young Neapolitan). Gustav Carl Ludwig Richter (1823-84) was a German school portrait painter active in 19th Century Berlin. He was known for his portraits of aristocratic beauties as well as Orientalist subjects. Current location of the original Richter work is unknown. Richter’s oil on canvas, Neapolitan Girl, possibly a companion piece, was sold by Sotheby’s in 2010 to benefit the Huntington Art Collections. In the Young Neapolitan porcelain plaque, the boy is portrayed wearing an open neck shirt, a locket and earring and is painted on an unusual, round dome-shaped porcelain plaque. Unexamined outside of frame, maker unknown.
We invite you to see the porcelain plaque paintings described above and much more in our shop.
Written by Ruth Kelly
Amulet Art and Antiques on Ruby Lane