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1900 Hugo Leven Designed Art Nouveau "Kayserzinn" Platter

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Posted 6 years ago

(141 items)

‘Kayserzinn’ is a synonym for exceptionally high-quality Jugendstil pewter ware. Engelbert Kayser (1840–1911) – an art dealer, entrepreneur and ambitious artist residing in Cologne – founded a trademark of the same name in 1894. His aim was to lead the still historically characterised fine pewter of his parent’s foundry in Krefeld, now managed by his brother, into the Jugendstil era that was beginning. In his own atelier established in Cologne several well-known sculptors, such as Hugo Leven, Hermann Fauser and Karl Berghof, developed a characteristic and individual style in the context of Europe under the aegis of the skilled pewterer Kayser. At the International Expositions in Paris in 1900, Turin in 1902 and in St. Louis in 1904 Kayser pewter enjoyed great and also financial success. Kayser was awarded gold medals at Paris 1900, Turin 1902 and Dusseldorf 1902 for pieces that were primarily designed by either himself or Hugo Levin.

The new lead-free J. P. Kayser & Sohn AG ‘pewter silver’ not only satisfied the most modern artistic demands, but also served as high-class aesthetic residential furnishing and tableware. Apart from lamps, candlesticks, picture frames, trophies, jardinières, vases and writing utensils, the artists also created centrepieces, display bowls, tea and coffee sets, smoking utensils, as well as comprehensive sets of crockery, whose surfaces shone with a ‘warm silver glow’. All Kayserzinn pewter castings bear a named trademark and model numbers in the 4000 series, under which they could be bought in the shop branches in Cologne, Berlin, Frankfurt and Paris.

This massive fish platter was designed by Hugo Leven (1874-1956), who served as the artistic director for J. P. Kayser & Sohn and whose craftsmanship and artistic quality at the time was synonymous with that of Archibald Knox. Leven was so versatile that his creative energy encompassed far more than designs for pewter. At the 1902 Dusseldorf International Industrial, Trade and Art Exhibition, Leven was much in evidence and not just with the Kayserzinn he designed, but also with silver tableware and furniture. Apart from his work in Cologne, Leven also ran a decorative arts studio and his father's luxury goods business in Dusseldorf, where, apart form Kayserzinn and works by Leven himself, the work of all the great Art Nouveau / Jugendstil masters from Tiffany and Daum to Galle was sold. Leven's career continued its upward trajectory even after his separation from J. P. Kayser & Sohn in 1904. He went to work for Koch & Bergfield, manufacturers of silverware in Bremen, and in 1908 he was appointed director of the Hanau State Drawing Academy.

This monumental Leven-designed platter, Kayserzinn numbered #4325 (production 1900-02), is featured in the collection of the Musee des Arts Decoratifs (Paris), which is not too surprising given the design similarities between Leven's Japonist approach and that of the revered Emile Galle, whom Leven admired and mentioned as a significant influence. Here, on this platter, Leven has incorporated oceanic naturalistic forms, not limited to an aggressive pike, sea stars, squid and crabs. The upper portion of the platter has a wisely designed cartouche region produced by the tendrils of flanking sea stars, in which the initials "CK" are engraved (in a manner complementary to the platter motif).

Dimensions: 24.4”(L) x 11”(H).


  1. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 6 years ago
    Magnificent! I have never seen this, and I am captivated.
  2. vetraio50 vetraio50, 6 years ago
    The eyes on those fish tell it all! It's an amazing scene, high drama! Exceptional!
  3. epson233 epson233, 5 years ago
    fish and pewter -- it just doesn't get any better than this

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