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The Art of German Stoneware

May 5–August 5, 2012

From the fourteenth through eighteenth centuries, stoneware ceramics from Germanspeaking centers in modern-day Germany and the Low Countries were valued and widely traded throughout northern Europe. In the 1600s—the heyday of stoneware production—they found an enthusiastic market in colonial North America.

The medium's success is due to its stonelike durability and imperviousness to liquid, making it perfect for cooking, storage, and drinking vessels. The social aspect of stoneware ceramics explains the crisp relief decoration on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century pieces, which feature moralizing images or political figures and their coats of arms; later pieces often eschew such ornament for floral or geometric patterns inspired by Far Eastern porcelains imported to Europe. Inkstand and Candleholder with Musicians, Animals, and a Griffin demonstrates the inventiveness and artistry of stoneware potters, even when faced with a dwindling market for their works in the homes of the well-to-do.

This exhibition examines German stoneware from its origins to later revivals in the nineteenth-century and celebrates its long-standing relationship with the city of Philadelphia. It features selections from the Museum, seventeenth-century Dutch pictures demonstrating the high status of stoneware, and a generous promised gift of around forty pieces of German stoneware from Dr. Charles W. Nichols. The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated publication by Jack Hinton, Assistant Curator of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture.

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This exhibition is supported by the Robert Montgomery Scott Fund for Exhibitions.

The accompanying publication is generously supported by Charles W. Nichols and the Andrew W. Mellon Fund for Scholarly Publications at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


Jack Hinton, Assistant Curator of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture

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