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Portrait, Goethe, Ceramic Bust by Rudolf Uffrecht, Antique, France, 1870


Rudolf August Heinrich Matthias Uffrecht (1840-1906) (after)
Utzschneider & Cie., Sarreguemines, France: 1870
Terracotta with black slip
Signed and dated on back of base: R.U. 1870. deponirt
Incised beneath base: U&C 133

Cast ceramic portrait sculpture of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), considered the greatest German literary figure of the modern era. His head is slightly turned and he wears a coat unbuttoned in front to reveal a vest and frilled shirt. The sculpture is supported by a cylindrical columnar socle as a single object, and glazed in a lustrous bronze color to resemble metal. Between the bust and the column is the name “Goethe” in relief letters. It is initialed and dated on the back in a raised oval reserve by the artist Rudolf Uttrecht with the inscription “deponirt,” which means “registered.” The mark of Utzschneider & Cie., a leading European ceramics factory, is stamped beneath the base.

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Known as an original thinker and intellectual, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was the central figure of the German Enlightenment and the European Romantic movement. He was internationally recognized as a poet, playwright, and novelist. A multitalented man, he also held a law degree and performed important governmental roles for the duke of Weimar. His long poem Faust, also sometimes performed as a play, is a classic of European literature.

Rudolf August Heinrich Matthias Uffrecht was a German painter and sculptor known for his terracotta portraits of musicians, artists, poets and political and historical figures, as well as allegorical and genre subjects. The eldest son of ceramics manufacturer Jakob Uffrecht, he studied at the Berlin Academy of the Arts with the sculptor Bernhard Afinger, winning three consecutive first prize awards in modeling and composition between 1860 and 1862. He started working for his father’s factory, modeling terracotta figures and designing industrial ceramics. In the 1870s he traveled to the world exhibition in Vienna and also toured Germany, Greece, Italy and Switzerland. He opened his own studio in Rome in the 1880s, where he belonged to the German Association of Artists. In 1891, he moved to Florence, then returned to Germany in 1895, living and working in Berlin from 1897. Uffrecht impressed contemporary critics with the naturalness of his figures and harmonious designs. He also produced literary works.

Utzschneider & Cie. was a ceramics manufacturer in the town of Sarreguemines, located in the Lorraine region that was part of France through most of the company’s history. In 1800, Paul Utzschneider (1771-1844), who was from Bavaria, took over a defunct pottery factory founded ten years earlier by Nicolas-Henri Jacobi. He built it into a successful business that he passed on to his son-in-law, Alexander de Geiger, in 1836. Under his direction, the company was renamed Utzschneider & Cie. and adopted innovative manufacturing techniques. By 1871, when Alexander’s son Paul de Geiger took over the factory, the firm employed 1,800 workers and ranked first among French earthenware factories both in terms of the quality of its productions and its output. That year the region became part of Germany, and remained so until 1918. Meanwhile, in 1913, the company split into two companies, Porzellanfabrik Utzschneider & Cie. and Sarreguemines. After 1919 they were reunited into a single company under the Sarreguemines name. Renamed Sarreguemines-Batiment. in 1982, it is still in operation.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall wear and handling. Few minor edge chips restored.


Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. p. 423.

Boyle, Nicholas. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.” Britannica. 24 August 2020. (7 October 2020).

Heinrich, Guido. “Uffrecht, Rudolf August Heinrich Matthias.” Universität Magdeburg. 21 September 2005. (24 February 2012).

“Les Manufactures.” Sarreguemines-Passions. (7 October 2020).

Staley, Michelle. “Michelle Knows Antiques.” Discover Vintage America. September 2016. (7 October 2020).

Additional information


19th Century