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Alfred StellmacherButterflies and Bees Amphora Semiramis Vase
One of Amphora’s founders, Alfred Stellmacher, produced vases which nearly always feature a spider and web, but it is the Semiramis series of the firm’s Gres-Bijou line which has become so highly collectable and a signature of Amphora. Amphora’s inspiration for their new line was no doubt drawn from France. In an expansively creative mode excited by the possibilities of cross-pollinating techniques with materials, Amphora followed the lead set by French ceramists working in stoneware in order to push beyond porcelain. Clearly, Amphora noticed the symbiotic creative activity happening in Paris. From his metalwork studio located just above Siegfried Bing’s Maison Art Nouveau in Paris, Alfred Daguet adorned his hand-wrought metal boxes with glass beads mounted like jewels in cabochon settings. At Amphora, designers adapted jewelry techniques employed by Lalique to ceramics. Cemented onto their stoneware vases, the striking vitrified enamel jewels -whose surfaces range in effect from marbled, mottled or vivid colors- appear deceptively close to real precious stones and strongly call Daguet’s metal boxes to mind. Thematically, the Semiramis series showcases this enthusiasm for expanding Amphora’s artistic prowess, Amphora concentrates on the many aspects of the life cycle, placing great emphasis on the transformative nature of life and art alike. The vases are divided into two zones: the murky-colored top section covered with webbing evokes the nocturnal, the dormant, prey and death. The lower portion, by contrast, feels like a bright Spring day. The cloudless aqua-marine sky is filled with butterflies and bees whose flitting action calls to mind the process of pollination. The tiny webs where the delicate butterfly wings join in a circle subtly remind that preparation and patient waiting can be just as effective as active gathering. The ridged lines of the thrown stoneware reveal the hand of the artist in a palpable way and provide a natural equator of sorts to divide night from day. The vase conveys how all aspects of time holds an importance in Nature and the never-ending cycle of life. Amphora’s ethos was like a mantra for Art Nouveau’s potential in the Industrial Age. As each aspect of life is in flux, full of mystery and promise, each stage in Nature and in the Arts is one of a constant becoming. Amphora: Begun in 1892 in Turn, Bohemia as a manufacturer of artistic porcelain, Amphora was the result of a partnership between members of an extended family, Riessner, Stellmacher and Kessel. The firm quickly rose in prominence and, by 1896, it had earned the moniker, Court Supplier to the Imperial Court in Vienna. At the turn of the century, Bohemia produced 95% of all porcelain in the vast Hapsburg Empire, and Amphora was without an equal. Amphora’s reputation as a creative innovator and mark of quality went far beyond Europe’s borders. Amphora’s newly-introduced Gres-Bijou line won both popular and critical acclaim and was awarded the Grand Prize at the World’s Fair held in St. Louis in 1904. This was the acme of Amphora’s success. The following year, Artistic Director Eduard Stellmacher, left the company on the heels of creative designer and modeler, Paul Daschel’s recent departure. The firm reorganized a number of times and continued to produce ceramic ware. After WWII, the company was nationalized by the Czechoslovakian Republic. Operations ceased in the late-1960s.
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