Wiener Werkstatte style "new look" for post WWI art scene

Terry Kovel
This pottery vase by Vally Wieselthier has typical, colorful Wiener Werkstatte decorations. It was made around 1925 in Austria.

Artists often create works in many different mediums – ceramics, painting, sculpture, jewelry and even metalwork. After World War I, many artists traveled to different countries and schools to learn new "looks" and techniques. England, France, Germany and Scandinavia were leading art centers. 

Vally Wieselthier (1895-1945) was famous in Germany by the 1920s but almost unknown in the United States. She was born in Austria and studied under Michael Powolny from 1914 to 1920, then continued working with the artists of the new Wiener Werkstatte. She was a leading ceramic artist and designer making figurines, female heads, vases and more. 

In 1929, she moved to the U.S. and worked in New York making large ceramic statues and also designed dinnerware for the Sebring factory in Ohio; ironstone dinnerware designs for Mayer Pottery in Trenton, New Jersey; and worked at Cowan Pottery in Ohio, where she introduced the Wiener Werkstatte style. She also designed glassware, jewelry, textiles, papier-mache mannequins, furniture and even metal elevator doors. With all her success and fame, few pieces are seen in U.S. auctions.

Neal Auction Company sold an 8-inch-high Wiener Werkstatte vase made in 1925 signed with both "WW" (Wiener Werkstatte) and "VW" (Vally Wieselthier) for $1,037.

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Q. My aunt gave me a perfume lamp 50 years ago. It's a figural dog sitting up and begging. It has perforations on the head, a place for the perfume in the back of the head and large glass eyes where the light can show through. Can you tell me something about perfume lamps?

A. Maurice Berger, a French pharmacist, invented the perfume lamp in 1897 when he added perfume to lamp oil or other liquid fuel. Electric perfume lamps that used a lightbulb to heat the perfume were made by the early 1900s. The fragrance is emitted through small holes in the lamp.

Perfume lamps have been made in many different figural shapes and were made by manufacturers in several different countries. The lamp with a lightbulb, but without the perfume inside, is often used as a nightlight. Today a battery-operated or plug-in product, diffuser or spray can be used to provide a pleasant scent to a room.

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Q. We're downsizing and have to sell a beautiful Victorian baby stroller or carriage we've had for many years. There are large wicker scrolls on the sides, a cane seat and a scrolled woven footrest. The back wheels are much larger than the front wheels. It's in good, but not perfect, condition. What is it worth and where can we sell it?

A. The first push baby carriage was invented in 1848. It looked more like a stroller than a carriage. Wicker carriages with fancy scrollwork were popular in the 1880s and 1890s. They don't meet today's safety standards but are interesting, decorative items. Your wicker stroller would be hard to ship, so you should see if a local antiques shop or a consignment shop can sell it. If your stroller or carriage is very decorative, a buyer might use it to hold magazines or plants. If it's in great condition and an unusual shape, it could sell for $200 to $300.

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Q. I found a sterling silver Parker ballpoint pen with the name "Senator Robert F. Kennedy" on the body of the pen. Can you tell me anything about the pen, its origin, its significance and value?

A. Robert F. Kennedy was a U.S. senator from 1965 until 1968, when he was assassinated. Like many politicians, he gave pens and other small gifts or mementos to friends and supporters. Most pens don't have any special significance, unlike pens used by the president to sign an official document. Your pen may have been part of a boxed set of four Parker "Silvercraft" pens that included pens marked with the names of Senator John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and President John F. Kennedy. Your pen may be worth as much as $250.

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Q. I'd like your opinion on a Royal Doulton pitcher. It's 9 inches high and is marked "Isaac Walton Ware D2312." There is a band of trees at the top and two views of a fisherman wearing a long coat and hat. Inscribed at the base is "I care not, I, to fish in seas, fresh rivers best my mind do please." What is it worth? Where can I sell it?

A: Your pitcher is part of a series by Royal Doulton picturing fishermen in 17th-century garb and with quotes from Isaac Walton's book, "The Compleat Angler," first published in 1653. The series was made from 1901 to 1938 with several different designs and different quotes. Sellers often confuse this series with Gallant Fishers, another Royal Doulton series picturing fishermen and includes quotes from "The Compleat Angler," which was made from 1905 to the 1950s. The backstamps are different and includes the name of the series. You might be able to sell it at a consignment shop, antiques store or a local auction. Retail value, $75 to $100.

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TIP: You can safely store an old quilt by putting it on an unused bed and covering it with a plain coverlet or sheet.

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Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer reader's questions sent to the column. Send a letter with one question describing the size, material (glass, pottery) and what you know about the item. Include only two pictures, the object and a closeup of any marks or damage. Questions that are answered will appear in Kovels Publications. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at

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Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions. 

Silver plate, bowl, Candara, smooth organic form, marked, Lino Sabattini, Italy, 4 1/2 x 9 3/4 inches, $25.

Advertising, jar, Eat Tom's Toasted Peanuts, clear glass, black script lettering, overhanging lid, red knob with Tom's, 11 x 9 inches, $150.

Decoy, rainbow trout, wood, painted, shades of green, pink and teal, tack eyes, Miles Smith, c.1973, 9 1/2 by 32 inches, $280.

Jewelry, bracelet, bangle, Clic Clac, hinged with twisting H clasp, steel, inset enamel band, marked, Hermes K, 

7 inches, $365.

Galle, cameo glass vase, fern fronds, bronze green, on pale green ground, narrow elongated neck, marked, c.1900, 19 3/4 inches, $675.

Coin-operated arcade machine, Character Readings, Your Future, fortune telling and weight, 1 cent, deposit coin in slot, American Scale Mfg. Co., Washington, D.C., 1900s, 51 x 17 x 27 inches, $745.

Pottery, midcentury, charger, six parachuting stick figures, two dancing stick figures, blue shaded to mauve ground, Beatrice Wood, signed Beato & "Crete," 14 5/8 inches, $970.

Kitchen, coffeepot, tin, wrigglework decoration, flowers, spread-wing eagle, angled spout, C-shape handle, Pennsylvania, c.1815, 11 inches, $1,625.

Teco, salad bowl, pottery, matte green glaze, white high glaze interior, four buttressed L-shaped supports, marked, Holmes Smith, 12 x 6 inches, $2,625.

Furniture, Windsor chair, fan back, seven swollen spindles, crest with carved terminals, shaped arms, knuckle carved handholds, vase and ring turned legs, Mass., c.1790, 39 inches, $5,940.