In less than two hours this morning I solved something that has bugged me for years — who made my grandmother’s ‘little boy’ figurine? I’d hunted the internet several years ago for clues as to what the maker’s mark represented but to no avail. My grandmother passed away in 1994, so she wasn’t around to ask, and I can’t recall asking her any details when I was younger.
I started by doing a Google search for ‘little boy figurine writing’, then checked the images results. I found a couple that looked like him, and discovered that they were based on (copies of!) a statue (“Enfant Ecrivant”) sculpted by Antonio Canova (Italy, 1757-1822). Then I found a website where people could ask question about pottery marks and I searched their site for the bits of the mark I could identify — an arched cat? inside a house, with an ‘H’? in the roof.
The mark on the base is from the Hertwig (later Katzhutte) porcelain factory in Thuringia, Germany. Hertwig was in business from 1864 to 1958, later becoming Katzhutte (1958-1990), but the company did not survive after the reunification of Germany in 1990. According to the Porcelain Marks and More website (link below), the mark on my piece was used between 1914 and 1945. It depicts an arched cat inside a house, with an ‘H’ in the roof, and surrounded by an oval with indented dots at the compass points. The only difference between the mark I found on the internet and the one on my piece is that the cat is facing a different way — I don’t know if this is significant or if the image was reversed on the website where I saw it. I believe the figurine is made of porcelain bisque. It is 24 cm high, 8.5 cm wide, and 11.5 cm deep (9.4 x 3.3 x 4.5 inches).
The history of this piece in my family
My paternal grandmother (1902-1994) had this piece on her dressing table. Whenever I visited as a young child, I would stare at this little boy for hours trying to see what he was writing. I think my grandmother told me that my grandfather had given it to her around the time they got married (end of 1929), which fits the years of the mark (1914-1945). However, now that I know it was made in Germany, perhaps my grandfather, who was English, didn’t give it to her — Nana was of German descent so perhaps it was a wedding gift from one of her extensive family. That said, they came out to Australia from Germany in the 1890s, well before this mark was in use, so it’s not likely a family heirloom. My dad (b. 1930) said he always remembers it being in the house, so it’s definitely been in the family since then.
When my grandmother was moving into a retirement village and getting rid of many of her possessions, she gave it to me because I always so fascinated by it. I will give it to my nephew when I downsize.