Cameo and Phanolith

Wall Plaque #2443

It took almost 50 years in Mettlach to change from relief style (beginnings around 1840 ) to a new, at first sight similar production technique , the cameo ( Cameo ) and Phanlolith (= visible stone , from the Greek phanein = "become visible or come to light" and lithos = stone).

Around 1893 , this two-tone (Pâte-sur-Pâte) stoneware was introduced in Mettlach , crowned on the 1900 World's Fair in Paris.

In 1901 it was included in the Mettlach stoneware catalog. Master in the application of this new production process was the Mettlach modeler " Jean-Baptiste Stahl ".

From oral tradition within the Stahl family, it is known that it was the material " Parian " that Jean-Baptiste Stahl used to make his cameo and Phanolith creations for Mettlach .

Parian is a kind of " porcelain" that has been used since the second third of the 19th century , especially in the production of doll heads, busts and figures. It has a silky shimmering shine but not as shiny as glazed porcelain.

The name derives from the sculpted marble of the Greek island of Paros . Parian was first produced in 1844 at Copeland Manufacture and Mintons's Pottery (both in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England).

The composition of Parian is handed down through a handwritten manufacturing guide:

  • 63.75% silica
  • 29.70% alumina
  • 4.40% sodium bicarbonate
  • 1.50% lime
  • 0.50% bitter earth
  • 0.15% ingredients that the porcelain master kept secret


Parian was also used in the Mettlach Faiencerie from 1852 in the production of drinking cups, statues, illustrated jugs and utensils. The composition of the mass was comparable to English. It was a white, sturdy stoneware, fine-grained and shiny, trying to mimic Paros marble.

The recipe for the " Parian porcelain", which was used for the cameo and Phanolith products at the end of the 19th century , Of course Mettlach may have been adapted to the special properties of ceramics.

The big difference to the previously manufactured relief products lies in the much finer, thinner Parian porcelain mass , which was applied to the body of the ceramics , allowing a shine through of the background (green or blue) at the thinnest points which allowed impressive depth effect. Waving long hair, flimsy, wrinkled robes, faces and flower garlands could be particularly well represented.

By using this much thinner material " Parian " (in contrast to the relief figures made of clay that protrude far from the ceramic body), the tolerance between the materials (body and decor mass) was much lower.

The difficulty was that the Parian mass for the decoration in the fire against the ceramic shrinks up to 20% more. To avoid unsightly fire cracks, the Mettlach ceramists had to put together a mix of materials that had similar expansion properties as the ceramic .

It took a year of experimentation in Mettlach to find the right composition. What was the result --> in addition to the Chromolith production, another highlight of the ceramic production on the Saar, which was not only technically, but also aesthetically of a high perfection.


In the production of the cameo and Phanolith products , the carrier objects (vases, wall plates, ...) were first molded in the slip casting process (current state of knowledge), sprayed with a soft green or blue matt glaze and then pre-fired.

In a separate step, the decors (figures in Parian mass) were placed on the pre- fired carrier objects.

How this laying on the porcelain mass was done, is not yet definitively proven. There is the theory that this decor mass was formed separately and then applied to the carrier object.

A slightly different  approach assumes that the porcelain decor ( Phanolith ) was applied in a second slip casting and that wax molds were used instead of plaster in order to create the extremely detailed features of the decor.

The small mistakes that are more or less obvious on closer inspection of some objects would speak in favor of this. These are small, cracked (air) bubbles on the decor, traces of lines from the slip-casting form, or even traces of the white Parian mass on the entire surface. A discussion point that don't bring to a termination.

In a second fire, the two materials (ceramic carrier and porcelain mass) fused together and the decorative mass was fixed.

Why do you differentiate between Cameo - (= Cameo , also called "false phanolith" ) and the real Phanolith ceramicActually PhanolithPhanolith - Tables and -vases (no pitchers) made in the same molding process as the cameo products .

In the (real) Phanolith , however, the tolerances were even lower in the fire and the material was even finer than the cameo , so that you could play with the shading and create a sense of spatiality (similar to the painting with the colors) in the image area ,

This even more complex method of manufacturing and modeling the real Phanolith made the products significantly more expensive than the cameo products . So the same cameo product in real Phanolith cost almost the double.

Cameo and (real) Phanolith articles can also be distinguished by their model number (mold number). Cameo numbers are between # 2000 and # 3500 , the Phanolith numbers are all over # 7000 .

Recent findings show that the number of products in real Phanolith is quite modest. In the Mettlach price catalogs from 1905 to 1908 only 80 different products expressly bear the designation " Phanolith , all objects with a 4-digit number, starting with the number " 7 " .

The whole Phanolith production can be arranged well in time because they were mapped between 1901 and 1910 in the sales catalogs. The prices correspond to the quality difference between Cameo - and (real) Phanolith .

Cameo wall plates with the mold numbers # 2442 and # 2443 cost about 10 RM at that time, while the same size Phanolith plates cost about twice as much. If one compares the prices with approximately equal plates in chromolith technique, as for example the highly coveted plates " Snow White and Papageno (form numbers: # 2148 and # 2149 )" with 10 RM each or the plates with the "knights of the houses Habsburg and Hohenzollern (form numbers: # 2187 and # 2188 ) "each with 12 RM, then real Phanolith plates were very expensive, which suggests an complex production technology.

To get to know the exact differences, you should, for example, buy the same vase, which was once made in Cameo and one more time (later) in Phanolith (eg mold # 2446 and # 7010 ). Even without a trained eye, the quality differences can easily be identified by a layman.

But I would like to say here that the number of identical objects that were produced in the two production variants is very low. It is also amazing that no beer mug or even a single punch was awarded the title " Phanolith ", but vases , jardiniers , murals and plates , flower pots and medallions , a clock and a jewelery box .

The following two images show details of the identical vases (shape and decor) # 2446 (upper image) in Cameo and # 7010 (bottom image) in Phanolith 

2446 Kamee7010 Phanolith


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