In the first part of this two part article I provided some information in respect of the immediate background to the vogue for Art Deco wall masks. Here I want to focus upon some of the major manufacturers and specific types of mask any buyer might expect to encounter. I’ll commence with the firm of Cope & Co. as Cope masks are some of the easiest to come across especially in the UK.
C & Co Mask Mod No 1 (length 18cm)
J. H. Cope & Co.
Wellington Works, Longton, England.
James Cope’s Wellington works (Staffordshire) had a very short history running only sixty years between 1887 and 1947. Largely known for producing everyday china with floral, landscape and later geometric decoration their wares were nearly always marked with a trademark incorporating the Duke of Wellington. However, during the 1930s in what seems to be an offshoot of their major business they began producing a range of wall masks which used an alternative impressed mark of C & Co. or C Ltd. England.
These impressed marks are a great help to the collector for a variety of reason. First of all they always include a model number. Secondly, it was not uncommon for factories to produce near copies (often without obtaining permission) of wares by international rivals. In the case of Cope, models No 1 & 6 among others were fairly direct copies of masks produced by Royal Dux (see more below).
C Ltd Mod No 21 (18cm)
Cope and Dux masks are fairly easy to distinguish between however, as even without the impressed marks, Cope masks were finished with an overall high gloss glaze which wasn’t always the case with Dux. Furthermore, Cope masks are marginally larger (approx. 1.5 cm all around) than those by Dux. Another guide to identification is that Cope masks do have a marked tendency to develop ‘age related crazing.’ I say ‘age related’ in scare quotes as the crazing probably occurred immediately the items were removed from the kiln. In other words, it was pretty much there from ‘the word go.’ Certainly, the crazing is common, rarely detracts from the value and indeed provides a certain charm. Nearly all the Cope masks were produced circa 1934/5 and each model was made in a variety of colourways. All are highly collected today with some models, for example No 22 (illustrated below) fetching approx. 40% more than others. The newcomer to collecting does need to watch out for copies and reproductions however. For example, the Moorland Pottery did produce similar examples at a much later date which are not so interesting. Nevertheless, these are all clearly marked as being by Moorland. There are also copies made from chalk on the market but these shouldn’t fool anyone being more a homage than an intent to deceive. The golden rule however, is ‘if it doesn’t have an impressed C & Co. or C Ltd mark it’s unlikely to be original.
C Ltd Mod No 22 (21cm) C & Co Mod No 6 (15cm)
John Beswick Limited, Gold Street, Longton, UK.
The modellers at Beswick produced a variety of wall masks between 1934 and 1939 although several models – including the popular ‘Marlene’ mask modelled on Marlene Dietrich – continued in production post WW11. As with other firms masks were produced in a variety of sizes in this instance varying between 15cm and 30cms and in various colourways including an overall white matt glaze finish. The ‘Marlene’ masks came with red and platinum blond hair, black, yellow, green or blue beret and less commonly were produced in profile rather than full face. The thing to note with the ‘Marlene’ masks is that if it is finished with an overall high gloss glaze then it was produced prior to 1940, if it has a matt glaze then it was almost certainly produced after the war.
Perhaps the most easily recognised of the Beswick masks is the one generally known as ‘the Hyacinth Girl’ model no 436. A large mask or plaque, in profile it measures approx. 30cm by 22cms and again was available in several colourways the most popular of which were the brunette and platinum blond. Not all have impressed marks but are undoubtedly by Beswick. Proving very popular these were produced in large numbers from 1934 until 1939 when production ceased. Therefore they are easy to date and come up quite often. You will also notice on the left-side of the plaques were the lady looks down there is a slight cut-out to the hyacinth border. Some don’t have this cut-out but are again by Beswick. I don’t know why some have the cut out but suspect that those without were produced nearer to 1939 being more stable in the kiln. This leads to a final point in that these were prone to firing holes. That is, unwanted holes usually along the side rim. If you spot these holes it’s still the real M’Coy but a discount is in order. In any event you shouldn’t have to pay more than £240 for one in good condition.
Doulton & Co. Ltd., Gold Street, Burslem, UK.
The long established firm of Royal Doulton are best known for their range of figurines. They did however, produce a limited range of face masks during the 1930s often to complement existing figurines such as ‘Sweet Anne’ (illustrated) and designed by Miss Greaves. All are clearly marked ‘Royal Doulton’ and are of a high gloss glaze.
Originally Vienna, later Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic.
The famous firm of Royal Dux grew out of the Austrian firm of Royal Vienna and was established in 1860 at Dux, Bohemia which is now Duchov in the Czech Republic. Highly renowned for their figurines and centrepieces in both the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles Dux also produced a large range (that is ‘a lot’ but numbers unknown) of wall masks throughout the 1920s and 30s. As with many pieces from this factory some were clearly marked ‘Royal Dux’ while others were not. However, the quality of the pottery and porcelain is high and often of a mixed satin, matt and high gloss glaze.
Although it is no guarantee that an unmarked piece is made by Dux the majority of their masks generally have a 5 figure impressed model number usually commencing 15… Moreover, those familiar with Dux figurines will instantly recognise masks produced by Royal Dux with or without the back-stamp. Although the company still operate successfully today I know of no reproductions of the masks though the 1930s figures have been produced again.
You might also note at this point that Cope, Beswick and Dux understood far more about contemporary fashion, especially re ladies hair styles and hats than Doulton. In this respect Doulton still appear to be more comfortable with the styles of the nineteenth century – or at least didn’t appear to be fully committed to twentieth century design.
Dux masks come in a variety of sizes from miniature to large and the earliest mask I have (pictured immediately above) numbered 14930 began production as early as 1919. Prices for Dux masks vary widely usually between £130 for the miniature mask 14930 to between £200-250 for the ‘Lady with Butterfly’ (pictured below) Model No. 15514. Dux also produced a range of masks celebrating women in the armed forces and look out for the ‘Sailor’ and ‘Army’ girl masks which are highly sought after.
William Goebel Porzellfabrik
Ausstria/Rodental, Northern Bavaria
Originally founded by F. W. Goebel in 1871 and still in production Goebel are perhaps best known today for their range of ‘Hummel’ figures. Their range of masks however, were produced during the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s. Highly distinctive, Goebel adopted an extensive colour palette, had first class modelling and were all hand painted.
Made in various sizes from miniature to large, great attention was given to fine detail. For instance, the first lady pictured -with flowers in her hair, Mod No FX6213 - was produced with blue, grey and here the rarer brown eyes.
Goebel were further known for innovative design. If we look closely at the mask below she differs significantly from most wall masks in that, instead of having ‘simple’ painted on eyelashes, the eyelashes and moulded in relief and then individually hand painted.
The two miniature masks – approx. 13 & 12 cm in length respectively – illustrated below serve to demonstrate the distinctive use of colour and delicate painting which Goebel are noted for. Also in this instance the use of a soft satin glaze as opposed to the high gloss glaze used immediately above. It is also important to note that each of the masks by Goebel have impressed model numbers, for example FX 80/1 and FX 81/1 for the miniature masks and a distinctive ‘Crowned GW’ monogram which the firm utilised between 1922 and 1949.
As with most firms Goebel produced masks in full face and in profile as well as a highly desirable range of double-faced masks which showed figures in profile looking at one another. One of my favourite variations of this is the large ‘Lady with Borzoi’ (pictured) below. Interestingly, this variant doesn’t have an impressed model no. just the crowned monogram, but as a sign of quality even the reverse of the dog’s head (which faces the wall) is painted to the same high standard as the front.
Coupled with their relative rarity, it is the innovation, standard of modelling and the delicate painting which make Goebel masks so sought after and hence comparatively more costly. Expect to pay around £275 plus for the ‘Lady with Borzoi’ if in fine condition.
ERphila was actually an import company rather than a manufacturer and was owned by Ebeling and Reryeuss of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. The company imported high quality pottery from numerous factories in Czechoslovakia and Germany many of which remain unidentified. ERphila operated roughly between 1920 & 1940 and their wares are much sought after. One of their most popular masks is the large, rather avant garde example pictured below. Available in at least 4 colourways – with red, green, black and blue stripes to the hat and scarf – it was also made with ‘slit-eyes’ in the manner of Goldscheider (see below) or with standard ‘painted-in’ eyes. Not all of these masks were marked with the distinctive ERphila back-stamp but everyone I have seen has the same impressed model no. 11729.
If you refer back to Part 1 of this article and note the stylised eyebrows eyes and lips and compare with the Cassandre ad you may make the same connection as I did. Also please do note that should you ever buy one of these for a loved one, as with dolls and clowns, some people do find these masks in particular somewhat spooky. Furthermore, expect to pay around £200 to £250 occasionally a bit more if in first class condition.
If you should ever desire a model of ‘Marlene on the Wall’ (it’s the title of a song by Suzanne Vega) along with models by Beswick, Keramos are as good as they get. However, if you are ever found singing to your Marlene mask (pictured below) then you definitely need to get out more and are probably beyond help.
However, masks by Keramos are nearly always of exceptional quality and are comparable by those by Goldscheider. This is unsurprising in a way as apart from both firms being initially based in Vienna, they were also known to employ the same artists on either a freelance or ad hoc basis. Important artists to look out for in this respect are Stefan Dakon, Rudolf Podany and Adolf Prischel. Whether their designs were produced by Keramos or Goldscheider the pieces were generally signed as being by the individual artist.
Masks made by Keramos as with those by Goldscheider bear a variety of marks depending upon the period of production. Both firms produced masks after WW11 (less expensive) and many have been the subject of deliberate fakes. You should also note that some Keramos wares were marked ‘Royal Belvedere’ (see pics) which was a mark largely reserved for export wares.
Goldscheider masks are highly sought after and those originating prior to 1940 always command high prices ranging from around £400 to over four figure sums – and yes, that’s each! As noted above these have occasionally been copied often with (poorly) faked marks and if in doubt leave well alone unless buying from a reputable dealer. You also need to pay close attention to condition. Nearly all Goldscheider masks were made from a terracotta body and are more fragile than other ceramic masks. You should also take note of the distinctive curls of hair on many of these masks. Rather than being cast from a single mould the locks of hair on Goldscheider masks were hand-formed and applied separately and these can be easily damaged. Having said that, masks produced by Goldscheider are for many the most desirable and always command high prices. Because of the complicated history of the firm which had to relocate several times (due to the rise of Nazism) including to England, the USA and eventually West Germany, there is little else useful I can add in a short article. Nevertheless, I hope that the pictures below illustrate the kind of wares the factory produced. The pre 1939 masks are generally large and highly distinctive being made of hand-painted terracotta with a mix of soft satin glaze for the face with high-gloss glaze for the hair and lips etc. Although pierced eyes are most noticeable this wasn’t always the case but Goldscheider masks were always highly stylised.
Caring For and Displaying Wall Masks.
Masks are easy to care for, just a rinse with lukewarm soapy water and a soft cloth. Soaking is fine for ingrained dirt but not for terracotta masks which are softer and prone to damage. Displaying is easy – you hang them on a wall!!! Mine look great in the hallway and going up the staircase interspersed with period pictures and framed adverts.
Starting a collection is also easy, it’s simply about taste. You can go for colour, manufacturer, fashions or whatever. My idea is to go for ‘expression’, ‘drama’ or ‘theatricality.’ So, perhaps you could consider ‘masks of ladies with masks’ but expect to pay over £400 or even £1,000 for examples such as the two below – the first by Keramos and thee second by a lesser known Italian factory called Essevi.
Hoping you may have found this rather long article interesting and useful.