The Prototype and an Artefact: The Case of Tile Stoves and Fireplaces from the Nineteenth to the First Half of the Twentieth Century
Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis
Keywords:tile stove, product model, mass-produced artefact, catalogue, factory laws
The article analyses the problem of attribution between the creator of models of factory-made tile stoves and fireplaces and the prototypes of decorative elements, and the manufacturer of mass-produced artefacts in the nineteenth – first half of the twentieth century. Questions are raised as to who is the author of the prototype of an industrial product and what helps or impedes the identification of both the author of the model and the specific factory where the product was mass produced according to that model. The analysis is based on the insights of researchers from Germany, Finland and Russia, the provisions of the factory laws of the Russian Empire of the second half of the nineteenth century, examples of factory catalogues, and cases of attribution of specific products.
The research showed that in Germany, which set the trends in the production of tile stoves in the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century, the prototypes of industrially produced tile stoves were mostly created by well-known architects and sculptors, whose names are recorded in factory documents, and quite many of them are known today. It is known that in Germany, where the industrial revolution started in the early nineteenth century, state institutions were concerned about the quality of the prototype, and in the first half of the nineteenth century, they published various albums of prototypes of industrial production and invited renowned artists of the time to illustrate them. Master classes and exhibitions organised by various cultural figures in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when the exhibited products were put into production in factories not only in Germany, but also in other countries, also played an important role in improving the quality of industrial products.
In the countries with less developed industry, the problem of the prototype of mass-produced artefacts was solved in a slightly different way. Such countries include the Russian Empire, part of which Lithuania was in the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. There, it was required by law that the models of new products, including tile stoves, be registered as inventions with the state institutions that regulated trade and industry, but the authors of the prototypes retained their exclusive rights to them only for a very short period from one to three years. In addition, according to the Russian law, the owner of the factory rather than the artisan who created the model of the artefact was considered to be the owner of the prototype. For that reason, we practically do not know the names of the authors of models in this region. On the other hand, as research shows, at least the factories operating in the territory of Lithuania did not try to create new models, but prided themselves on producing artefacts according to the newest examples from abroad, although that “newness” could mean a period of several to several dozen years since the creation of the prototype.