Q: I purchased this bowl and pitcher in 1969 and am wondering about the mark and where the pieces were. Do you have any idea about the worth? There are no chips or cracks.
A: The mark found on the bottom does look like a scribble and is hard to interpret unless you know one of the words is obscured by a company’s initials superimposed over the name of the town where the items were made.
The company designation is “U & Cie” and the place name is “Sarreguemines.” The “U & Cie” stands for Utzschneider and Co., and Sarreguemines is a town in France. Its name means “confluence of the Saar,” a reference to its location at the confluence of the Saar and Blies rivers.
It started out as a Roman settlement and gained its civic rights in the 1200s. It became part of Germany when France lost the Alsace-Lorraine region in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. It remained part of Germany until the end of World War I, when it was returned to France.
Sarreguemines is known for its production of velvets, leather, papier-mâché and ceramics. Paul Utzschneider and Paul de Geiger started a faience (classically, tin-glazed earthenware) factory there during the French Revolution.
Utzschneider took over the operations in 1800, and Napoleon I was one of his customers. The company was so successful the local citizens began complaining about deforestation because the company was cutting down so many trees for wood to heat its kilns. The company switched to coal in about 1830.
In 1836, management passed to the de Geiger family, and business continued to be good for the company. New steam-powered factories were built in 1853 and 1860. After the Franco-Prussian War the factory became German, returned to France in 1918, and then from 1942 to 1945, the company was seized by the Germans and managed by Villeroy & Boch.
Utzschneider et Cie/Sarreguemines closed in 2007. The bowl and pitcher set in today’s question has very crisp decoration in the Art Nouveau style, which leads us to believe the set was probably made circa 1900. It is an exceptional example with entwined flowers and stems against what looks in the photographs like an almost eggshell background.
Bowls and pitchers were utilitarian objects that typically received a lot of wear and tear from daily use in the days before indoor plumbing was the norm. Hairline cracks are common as are unsightly chips, but this example is said to be perfect and that is much in its favor.
Unfortunately, bowls and pitchers, like so many 19th-/early-20th-century items, are out of fashion at the moment. And the bowl and pitcher set was once part of a larger grouping, which may have included such items as a soap dish, toothbrush holder and slop jar. Still, this exceptionally attractive set in outstanding condition should retail in the $175 to $250 range.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques.