Dear Helaine and Joe:
I live in Cape Town, South Africa, and I am sending you photographs of a lamp that once belonged to my late parents. I have also enclosed a photograph of the mark. I would like to know where it came from and its value.
This is truly an international query. The letter comes from South Africa, the image on the lamp is based on Spanish fiction and the piece itself was made in Bohemia (once a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, then Czechoslovakia, and now the Czech Republic).
The image on the piece is that of Don Quixote de la Mancha, the title character in the novel written by Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616). Part one of the novel was first published in 1605 and part two in 1615. It is one of the most influential works of fiction in Western literature, and Schopenhauer called it one of the four greatest novels ever written.
On the object belonging to B.S. we see the image of Don Quixote mounted on his nag, “Rocinante.” He is holding a lance and dressed in an old suit of armor. Looking at the piece, we feel the image may have been created using sgraffito, or the incising of a design into clay with a sharp instrument.
The oval mark has the place name “Czechoslovakia” on it, which did not formally exist until 1918. The firm that made it was the Amphora Porcelain Works, located in the Turn-Teplitz area of Bohemia (modern-day Trnovany, Czech Republic).
The manufacturer marked their wares “Amphora,” but the piece was made in the factory owned by Riessner, Stellmacher and Kessel, which was founded in 1892 and remained in business until 1945. They are known for their art nouveau and art deco style wares. Sometimes there is a blending of the two.