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Pattern Play

Nearly every amateur/collector/dealer will recognize items with transfer decorations based on former courting couple style oil paintings by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Angelika Kaufmann or Antoine Watteau as the cheap (and even back then long royalty-free) transfers were sold over and over and over again, re-surfacing on items by dozens of different factories and decoration studios not only throughout Europe but even the United States and eventually Japan. And while people easily accept that transfer material was a regular trade item in those cases, they often ignore the fact that the market for transfer sheets was not only frequented by decorators and studios but also served regular manufacturers; sometimes with peculiar results.

Next to a few other examples, people may eventually notice that both Alboth & Kaiser (Kronach) and Jaeger & Co. (Marktredwitz) at one time, per coincidence, shared certain transfer decorations. This of course resulted in two non-related companies offering different items with one and the same pattern. Which was not only confusing for the domestic market back then but even today still results in puzzled faces when people check out certain series of US importer/distriutor/retailer Ebeling & Reuss (Philadelphia). I therefore thought it to be a good idea to dshed some light on the matter.

The whole situation was the result of the flourishing business with designs and ready-made transfer sheets, something which is still widely unknown outside the printing world and therefore may require further explanation. When a factory wanting to use transfer decorations did not have an own design department or transfer printing facility, the required patterns were ordered via regular printers or traveling representatives thereof. Sometimes it was merely a matter of being approached by a printing company which had just acquired a new design and was looking for a potential buyer. In fact it was not unusual that printing companies had a large range of ready-made patterns in stock; some even employed scouts which actively searched for new material.

Depending on situation and design, the customer could either purchase the exclusive rights of a design (which was relatively expensive) or decide to buy a certain amount of printed sheets only. The latter choice was of course far cheaper but always held the possibility that other factories could eventually use the same design.

One has to hold in mind that copyright regarding form/design was only possible when a producing factory was also legal owner of a design in full; merely purchasing a certain amount of sheets was insufficient as it was a non-exclusive deal, therefore items showing such a decoration could not be protected pattern-wise as all rights regarding the pattern/transfer, especially reproduction and sale in any form, remained with the printing company.

Cases in which German producers actually chose the cheaper path and created potential pattern clashes are few and far between, but exist nonetheless. Let us take another look at the example of Alboth & Kaiser and Jaeger & Co. as this plattern clash also influenced Ebeling & Reuss.

It is no secret that the post-World-War-II series 1599 sold by Alboth & Kaiser presents itself with exactly the same transfers as a series sold by Jaeger & Co. during the same time frame. What really has people often scratching their heads is the fact that the latter where sold as parts of the Harvest series by Ebeling & Reuss. The Harvest series on the other hand is also both body- and pattern-wise very similar to the Ebeling & Reuss series Orchard. This may lead to further confusion when items from the Harvest series are listed as Orchard or vice-versa, plus the fact that mixed sets thereof are sometimes sold as one.

My point is that there often are pretty easy explanations for all kinds of situations in which less educated people may start dropping nonsense, for example claiming that the one or other item must be "fake". As we can see it is very easy to bark up the wrong tree.


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