Personal Effects: Skeleton Decanter
By JERRY SAMPSON
Question: Jerry What can you tell me about this piece? I don’t know much about it. It has a crown and R mark on the bottom. I know that it was owned by a family in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. I remember it being in my great-grandfather’s home for as long as I can remember. There is a decanter, three little cups and a tray. Thanks for looking at this.
Answer: Wow! What a cool piece and very timely for October. Well, one you have a decanter set that was made by Schafer & Vater. Gustave Schafer and Guenther Vater opened the Schafer & Vater Porcelain Company in Thuringa, Germany in 1890. Their aim was to create high quality porcelain wares.
By 1910 the company had grown to the point that Sears & Roebuck were importing Schafer & Vater items into the U.S.A. In 1913 they had a workforce of over 200 employees and operated three huge kilns.
In 1918 a massive fire destroyed the company and plans were quickly made to open a new factory. They were successful in this endeavor and operated until their closing in 1962.
It’s reported that in 1972 the East German government took over this now empty factory and sadly, destroyed the company’s records and porcelain molds.
Schafer & Vater were most well-known for creating comical and figural items. But it’s the actual form of this decanter set that’s just amazing. Yes, creepy things sell.
I love the fact that the skeleton says “ oison” on the front of its shroud. I’d wager that this is a nod toward the growing thoughts and beliefs on the demon alcohol. Of course skeletons help to nudge that danger factor forward too.
Schafer & Vater were famous for using a water pale blue glaze on their pieces. I think that they made a wise choice in creating this in a brown glaze. It dates to the early 1900s. Be warned that there are fakes of this set out there, but this is the real deal.
If this was at a good quality antiques show, I imagine that it would be priced at about $200-$250 for the set. Thanks for sharing it. It’s very appropriate for the coming holiday.