About Russian Majolica

Russian Majolica

Our ceramic atelier is an association of artists and ceramists many of whom are members of various professional societies and associations based on family craft businesses.

This is why our works are of authorship even when we rework famous historical objects of art or use our standard molds.

This is also why you can get exceptional art objects made for your home in one singular exemplar. Even when they are made using our standard molds, there’s always a unique component to them: low relief murals, carved ceramics, art murals or complex multilayered brilliant glazing.

This article is dedicated to European antique tiled stoves preserved in numerous castles scattered across the picturesque hills of Europe. The story will tell about the tiled stoves of the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Austria and Lithuania. These stoves are not at all like old Russian tiled stoves, although they have a lot in common. However, they are remarkably beautiful and we would like to show them to you on the pages of our site and tell a little about the estates and the buildings where these stoves are located as well.



Czech antique tiled stoves



Zinkovy Castle was built by the Drslavice family in 1192 as a fortress. The castle originally had two defensive towers and two residential buildings. The founder of the castle, Ulrich Žinkov, lived in it until the beginning of the 13th century. In the 13th century, he built the second castle of Potenstejn nearby. Throughout its history, Žinkovy Castle was repeatedly passed from hand to hand.

Since the mid-15th century, it belonged to the Klenovs family, who in 1679 rebuilt the main palace in the early Baroque style.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the castle changed many owners: from the Vrtbas family, the Lobkowicz and Garrach families, right up to the industrialist Emil Skoda, who rebuilt the castle again in 1897 in the Neo-Renaissance style. This reconstruction was carried out by Viennese architects Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer. In 1948, the castle was turned into a pension.

The castle has a perfectly preserved antique tiled stoves in the Renaissance style, made using Italian majolica techniques, and probably related to the period of the house reconstruction by the Klenovs in 1679. The tiled facing of the stove has absolutely amazing bas-reliefs with semi-nude female sculptures, the richest relief tiles with floral ornaments, flowerpots and grotesques.

Very interesting is the Ploskovice Castle in Bohemia. The history of its foundation dates back to the Hussite revolutionary movements of 1424-1440. Back then was the first mention of this estate in connection with the stop of the emperor Sigismund in Ploskowice, who aimed to create the headquarters of the crusader army in Czechia.

In its modern form, the castle was laid by the architect Octaviano Brigioni in 1720 on the orders of the mistress of the local estate – Princess Anna Marie Francis of Tuscany. This elegant baroque house was built approximately in the 1730s. The building has a tiled stove in the same style. Its preservation, unfortunately, leaves much to be desired and it is not functional, however, the amazingly thin monograms and sculpture are very well preserved, along with the glaze on the surface of ceramics.



Polish antique tiled stoves



The following antique tiled stoves are located in Poland. These are the furnaces in Łańcut ([lantzoot]) Castle, the wonderful painted tiled stove in Elbląg ([elblong]) (or Elbing) and the royal stove in the Artus Courtf year 1545 in Gdansk. So, let us speak about Łańcut Castle.

This castle is one of the largest palace and park ensembles in Poland and is a real treasury of its national history and culture. The history of the castle dates back to the early Middle Ages. It was founded, just as a city was, in 1349, under King Casimir the Great. In its current form, the castle was built in 1629-1642 by Prince Stanislav Lubomirski.

But the best time of the castle was the second half of the 18th century, when the descendant and full namesake of the Lubomirsky prince Stanislav Yuzefovich Lubomirski Lancut, an outstanding figure in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, owned the estate. The palace was rebuilt by the architect Chrystian Aigner and complemented by rare artworks created by great artists of that era. Then the landscape park of the castle was created.

After the death of Stanislav’s wife, Princess Isabella, the castle passed to the Potockis family – the grandson of Princess Alfred Potocki the Third, who modernized the castle. After World War II, the palace was nationalized and turned into a public museum.

Lancut Castle is a real treasure trove of tiled stoves – there are more than 30 stoves and fireplaces with antique tiled facings belonging to a lot of different periods of art – from classic tiled stoves with reliefs and murals, to real works of art in the Baroque and Rococo styles, so decorated that only in their silhouettes the true purpose can be guessed.

The next oven that we want to show you is the Royal Oven in the Artus Court in the building of the same name in Gdansk.

The Artus Court was the residence of honored citizens of the city since 1350. The whole business life of the city was always in full swing there. After the fire of 1476, the building was restored in the Gothic style, which is preserved today. After 1742, the Artus Court became a city exchange. Today the building is the venue for city ceremonies.

The Royal Furnace in the Artus Court was created in 1545 by Georg Steltzner and master potter Jost. This is a huge twelve-meter antique tiled stove of the Renaissance epoch – the largest in Europe. It consists of relief tiles, 520 of which depict sculptural portraits of all European rulers. In 1995, the furnace was restored.

Two other antique tiled stoves that we would like to show to you are the 17th century tiled painted stove from the museum in Elblag and the tiled stove with Delft blue and white relief tiles in the Jan Dlugosz House in Sandomierz.

The stove in Elblag is a wonderful example of tiled art. Each tile of this furnace depicts everyday scenes with a thorough accuracy of details. Manganese glazes, discovered in Delft only at the end of the 17th century, are used in the painting, which suggests the participation of Dutch masters in the creation of this furnace.

The House of Jan Dlugoszis an old mansion built by its owner in Sandomierz in 1476. Jan Dlugosz was a diplomat, historian and author of the first published encyclopedia on the history of Poland. The building was built in the late Gothic style. In the 16th century, the building was topped with an attic. And in the thirties of the 20th century, the building was fully reconstructed. In 1937, the Diocesan Museum was made in the House of Jan Dlugosz, which has real Gothic pearls in its collection: the painting Virgin Mary with the Holy Infant by Lucas Cranach, the 13th-century sculpture Virgin Mary on the Throne from the church in Goźlice , and the collection of liturgical garments of the 15th-18th centuries and miniature organs of the 17th century.



Austrian antique tiled stoves



Hohensalzburg, an ancient fortress on the top of the Festungsberg hill in the city of Salzburg built in 1077 by Archbishop Gebhard, is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. Since then the fortress has been rebuilt several times, so today only the foundation remains from Gebhard’s edifice. Despite the powerful walls and impressive appearance of the castle, it always surrendered to the enemy without a fight.

In the entire history of the castle, it was besieged only once, and even then it was an armed uprising of peasants in 1525, and the terrified feudal lords were hiding within its walls. Now the castle has the largest collection of exhibits of Austrian military history and one of the largest collections of military weapons of different historical eras.

In Hohensalzburg two oldest tiled stoves in Europe of the 16th century were preserved. These stoves belong to medieval Gothic art and are lined with ceramic tiles covered with lead glazes. On the tiles are beautiful sculptural images of religious scenes (The Expulsion of Hagar from the Old Testament), the twelve apostles and reigning persons.

Another masterpiece of Viennese architecture is the Palais Kinsky in Vienna. It is interesting not only because it is an remarkably beautiful building in the Baroque style, but also because it is a fully functioning building. It holds auctions of works of art, as well as hosts secular and diplomatic events. For example, the EU talks on the status of Kosovo were held there.

The palace was ordered by Count Wirich Philipp von Daun and its construction began in 1717, directed by architect Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt. In 1784, the palace was sold to Count Franz Joseph Kinsky, director of the Vienna Military Academy and author of many works on military sciences. The palace is often called Daun-Kinsky after the names of its eminent owners. The palace’s architecture is of Baroque style, the palace has numerous works of art in its interiors, and the facade and its decorative elements set the style for all of Vienna until the 19th century.

In the Palais Kinsky, a wonderful tiled stove from 1740 has been preserved. This stove is a typical representative of the Viennese furnaces of the 18th century: it has landscape and genre pictorial panels, numerous relief friezes and, of course, sculptural ‘legs’ shaped like lions.

Museum of crafts in Innsbruck. In 1888, in the face of upcoming industrialization and in the wake of the Arts & Crafts movement, Tyrolean artisans decided to open a museum of folk art and crafts. By 1903, the museum was opened in the building of the former Franciscan monastery in Innsbruck. The collection housed many beautiful examples of applied art that belonged to a variety of sectors of society. There are things of peasantry, religious objects, and exquisite objects of art from the homes of Tyrolean nobles and the bourgeoisie.

We present to you an elegant ceramic stove from the Tyrolean Folk Art Museum. This is a cobalt tiled stove in the Renaissance style with white faience bas-reliefs.



Lithuanian antique tiled stoves



One of many remarkable objects of the cultural and historical heritage of Lithuania is the Vilnius Lower Castle, which now houses the Museum of the Rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The restoration of the castle is probably one of the largest projects on the revival of Lithuanian statehood and the resurrection of many beautiful examples of medieval art. The exposition is presented in chronological order and highlights three main periods in art – Gothic, Renaissance and Early Baroque.

During the restoration and archaeological work, mosaics, ceramic and stone architectural elements, and many ancient stove tiles dating from the reign of Sigismund the Old (1506 – 1548) and Sigismund Augustus (1548 – 1572) were found. In total, more than 300 thousand artifacts were found during excavations. The museum’s exposition covers the periods from the 13th to the 17th century, right up to the entry of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and its loss of statehood.


Tile stoves make up the largest group of architectural ceramics of the Lower Castle. More than twenty different types of tiles with princely coats of arms and allegorical images of mythological and biblical characters were found.

The largest number of tiles found in the Lower Castle belong to the Renaissance. These are tiles with multicolored glazes and engravings by famous German artists of the 16th century – Lucas Cranach, Albrecht Durer, Hans Sebastian Beham. Today, furnaces of the 16th century have been reconstructed in the Lower Castle.

An equally outstanding example of art from the beginning of the 20th century is the architectural ensemble in Vilnius – the Vileišis ([vileyshis]) Palace, built in 1906 by order of Petras Vileišis by the architect August Klein.


Petras Vileišis (1851-1926) – a Lithuanian politician, engineer and philanthropist, enlightener and enthusiast of the revival of Lithuanian writing and national Lithuanian culture.


Initially, the architect proposed two palace designs – in the Neoclassical style and in the Neo-Baroque. Vileišis chose Neo-Baroque because of the proximity of the future castle to the Catholic Church of Saints Peter and Paul in the Baroque style, which is rightfully considered the pearl of this style.

The palace was built by Vileišis not only as the living place for him of his family, but also as a convention hall for holding various cultural events. From 1907, art exhibitions of Lithuanian artists were regularly held in the palace.

After the Second World War, the palace building was transferred to the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences and from 1947 it housed the Institute of Lithuanian Language and Literature.

The palace, which has interiors in Classical, Neoclassical and Baroque style, has preserved thirteen furnaces made in the same styles. Particular attention is drawn to the green fireplace made in the style of then fashionable Art Nouveau.

Tiles for stoves in the palace were produced by the Finnish Abo factory – Abo kakelfabriks aktiebolag (AKF), whose models we actively use in our work and which we wrote about in our article about Finnish tiled stoves at the beginning of the 20th century. An interesting fact is that in the living room of the Vileišis Palace there is exactly the same baroque tiled stove as in the reconstructed Vsevolozhsky Manor in Moscow.



German antique tiled stoves



Germany is a country of talented craftsmen, so it is not surprising that the most interesting ancient stoves were made by German masters.

16th century was the heyday of the European Renaissance. The world of the ‘dark’ Middle Ages was broken. People perked up, gained wealth and new self-confidence. This is a period of euphoria of the human spirit, which gave a lot for the development of European civilization in all areas of human activity.

One of the outstanding and the most famous Renaissance ceramist in Germany became Hans Kraut.


Johann Bartholomew Kraut (1532-1596), often called Hans Kraut, a potter from southern Germany, was also known outside his home region. Creator of numerous ceramics at the Austrian court. The most famous of his works is the tiled relief furnace of 1577, which is stored in the Victoria and Albert Museum.


Hans Kraut is rightfully considered one of the most important ceramists of Southern Germany, for he was one of the first to transfer Italian majolica across the Alps. He created many products, which were novel in Germany, in the style of the Italian Renaissance, using drawings by Holbein and Raphael, although his main interest was in sculpture.

Kraut made a significant contribution to the arts and crafts of Germany, using sculpture and bas-relief in his ceramics. His skill was so great that at the court of Archduke Ferdinand II he was accused of witchcraft and, as a result, he was even buried outside the Christian cemetery. Two of his sons became followers of his distinguished father and the surname Kraut was known among the potters until the 18th century.

German artisans have always been susceptible to new trends in technology and pedantry in their implementation. The Germans were so successful in the manufacture of stoves that over the centuries, many European manufacturers of stove tiles acquired molds for production of ceramics from the Germans.


This is probably why the largest collection of various tiled stoves can be found in Germany, where applied art keeps pace with architecture, repeating all the main trends in art – from Gothic through the Renaissance to Baroque, Biedermeier and Art Nouveau.

The summit of German tiled art falls on the 17th-18th century. This period includes tiled stoves in the Hohenaschau castle in Bayerns, in the Heidelberg castle in Baden-Württemberg and in many other castles in Germany.

One cannot but mention the wonderful rocaille furnaces made in the Stockelsdorf faience factory in Lübeck under the direction of another famous German ceramist Johann Buchenwald.


Johann Georg Ludwig Boniface Buchenwald (1723-1806), an artist and director of several earthenware factories in Schleswig-Holstein, is one of the most important German ceramic masters.


Under the artistic direction of Johann Buchenwald, German faience became one of the best in Europe, in terms of its historical and artistic value as well.

Another manufacturer of tiled stoves in Germany is the Meissen manufactory, which gave rise to the enterprise of Karl and Ernst Teichert, which produced tiled fireplaces and stoves until the middle of the 20th century. The tiled wall of the Meissen manufactory, which still exists in Dresden, about which we wrote in more detail in our article about the Meissen porcelain manufactory, is noteworthy.

But the most voluminous collection of German ceramic tiled stoves is in the Velten Museum of Furnaces. Such a large exposition of stoves of all eras and styles, collected in one place, probably does not exist anywhere else in the world.

Here you can find ancient Gothic tiled stoves, unusual Renaissance stoves, wonderful miniature baroque stoves, curiously-curved Rococo stoves, and of course, amazing modernist stoves.

It is completely impossible to describe all European antique tiled stoves art in one article – an entire book can be dedicated to this topic. But we hope that we have managed to rouse your interest for this topic and perhaps you will take the time to visit the places we mentioned and especially the Stove and Ceramics Museum in Velten.


Museum’s address:

Ofen- und Keramikmuseum Velten

WilhelmstraЯe, 32

16727 Velten

Telefon: 03304 / 3 17 60

Fax: 03304 / 50 58 87

E-Mail: info@ofenmuseum-velten.de

Website: www.ofenmuseum-velten.de