Q. Would you have an idea of the value of this Royal Dux Bohemia centerpiece, No. 647? It stands 16 inches tall and 15-by-10 inches at the base. As far as I can discover, there are not flaws. Any information would be helpful.
A. This is art-nouveau imagery at its very best.
This magnificent piece features two scantily clad women with typical curly hair -- scandalously cavorting at what appears to be some sort of a pool surrounded by leaves and foliage. It's a little bit racy by some standards.
"Royal Dux" is the name that collectors give to the products of the Dux Porcelain Manufactory, which was located in Duchcov, Bohemia, until 1918, Czechoslovakia until 1993 and, now, the Czech Republic. The company was founded by Eduard Eichler in 1860, and in 1945 the concern joined with other companies and was nationalized to become Duchcov Porcelain.
Royal Dux was famous for its decorative tablewares, and this elaborate object would have been used as a lovely centerpiece either on a table or on a sideboard/buffet. The mark is a pink triangle with an acorn in the center surrounded by the words, "Royal Dux Bohemia," with a capital "E" in the bottom part of the acorn.
According to Robert E. Rontgen's "Marks on German, Bohemian and Austrian Porcelain," this mark was used starting in 1912, which is a little late for pieces with an art-nouveau style. Rontgen also suggests that the "E" became a "D." in 1947 and an "M" in 1953. Collectors greatly prefer authentic Dux pieces with the "E."
We found a reference that said that Dux used porcelain to make its smaller pieces, but pottery (earthenware) to make its larger models. This may or may not be true, but if it is, it suggests to us that this piece is probably pottery rather than the more refined and highly fired porcelain.
The variety of objects made by Royal Dux is truly staggering and many of them are spectacular indeed. Imagine a charioteer driving a pair of rearing horses, or a 23½-inch-tall camel and rider with attendant, nymphs climbing into a conch shell, a centerpiece with elegant dancing ladies round the base and pedestal, or a pair of monumental vases with 3-D sheep and a shepherd on one and a shepherdess on the other.
It is sad, but the interest in all this art-nouveau splendor has waned in the past eight years or so, and shows little sign of reviving. Current customers do not seem to be interested in most figural ceramics, and in many cases, these large Royal Dux pieces are just too big to fit into many living environments without overwhelming them.
There was a time when Royal Dux was hot, hot, hot. Now it is not, not, not. This is partly because the newer production has caused some buyers to beware; partly because art nouveau is a style that is not widely appreciated now; and partly because pieces are so flamboyant they seem to draw all the oxygen out of the room.
The last comparable we found on this piece was in 2008 when one exactly like it sold at auction for $1,000. We feel that now that price may even be a bit softer -- but there should always be something of a market for attractive, seminude female figures -- because beauty always sells.
• Contact Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928.