OFFERED BY: Lisa Kellie Russo, Antiques & Design, Los Angeles Calif.
FOUND AT: February 2003 Hillsborough Antique Show, San Mateo, Calif.
MAKER: J.P. Kayser Sohn
MADE IN: Germany
It’s a good bet this is the finest horseracing inkwell extant. Antique inkwells with sports motifs are quite rare. Occasionally I’ll come across one but I don’t recall ever seeing any as nice as this. It’s two most distinctive features are it’s size of 9 ¼” tall, and it’s high luster. Previously I had always associated pewter as being much darker and duller. As an inkwell, technically it falls into the category
of decorative art; but its impression is that of a fine art statue. Tell ya what, if ever there was an inkwell with a presence, this is it.
Before looking into this remarkable piece I had never heard of its maker J.P. Kayser Sohn of Krefeld Germany. The firm is also referred to
by it’s trademark name
Kayserzinn. Most of what’s written on Kayser Sohn is in German so I had a pretty hard time researching them. I was surprised to find out they’re still in business and have a website, in German naturally. I
emailed them repeatedly trying to get their history in English. I finally got one
email back (in English) telling me their history was on their website.
I guess that meant they just didn’t have time for der pesky American journalist!
Fortunately a friend I’d met on eBay, Hans Gerretzen of Holland, assisted me and I was able to piece together a few things. Hans is a prolific collector of antique European football items (soccer).
Between 1894 and 1912, J.P. Kayser Sohn was the leading maker in Germany of small decorative metal work cast in pewter. They seem to have made the same kinds of things as our American firms, Tiffany’s, Gorham and Reed and Barton. A small sampling of some of the many highly decorative things they produced includes: teapots, creamers, sugar bowls, candelabras, cake servers, and vases. They also made some sports trophies and obviously stationary desk ware.
Under the direction of Jean Kayser, their factory was located in western Germany, in the town of
Krefeld, at the northern tip of the Rhineland. In 1894 the design studio was located not too far away in Cologne, under the direction of Engelbert Kayser (1840-1911). Engelbert Kayser was known as the “Father of
In 1898 Kayser Sohn had about 400 workers. Two years later, by the time of the Paris Exhibition in 1900 their work force had doubled to 800 workers, of which 500 worked in the foundry. After 1904 there was an economic decline, and after 1906 the staff of the Cologne design studio was reduced.
The Kayser Sohn firm received a lot of recognition at home and abroad in a short amount of time. They received a Gold medal at the Paris World Exhibition in 1900. They won another Gold medal at the First Exhibition of Modern Art in Turin in 1902. They also carried off a similar prize at the German National Trade Exhibition in Düsseldorf. Finally, here in the United States, they won a Gold medal at the St. Louis Universal Exhibition in 1904.
From what I’ve gathered, Kayser Sohn’s early artistic significance ended with the death of Engelbert Kayser in 1911. The elegant Art Nouveau style Kayser Sohn had embraced was winding down then;
modern art was on its way.
I recently spoke with the dealer from Los Angeles that offered this, who told me she had sold it later the same day I photographed it. Good thing I shot it when I did or we’d have never learned about it ! I sure wish I’d have shot the marking on the bottom, as I’ve since learned Kayser Sohn pieces all have production numbers, which could have helped researching it. The number 4000 was introduced in 1894/5 the last number 4999 was produced in 1925.
Considering it’s quality, the piece merits more study than is practical for this column. Questions like, who it’s designer was, how many were cast, where they were distributed, and how much they originally sold for, are unknown from this vantage. What I can tell however, is that based on what I’ve seen over the years, I’d say its one of the best examples of equine art in the world. And based on that I’d say $2,200.00 was way more than a good deal. Enjoy!