As a result of the sudden death of my new Sub-Zero (a painful and expensive death), I gained more display space above my new refrigerator and decided it was the perfect opportunity to expand my collection of German spice chests.
I decided to be particularly choosey with any purchases and to wait until the nicest examples came up for sale. This one in cherry fit the bill. I had never seen one stencilled before. It is also in old German script, which is one of my criteria.
This one in oak is particularly charming with the carved top piece.
I was thrilled to find this large walnut wall cabinet with little porcelain signs in old German script and pulls fashioned out of bone. However, it didn't occur to me until I took this photograph that the cabinet may be for medicinal herbs rather than kitchen spices. It does have a drawer for fennel (Felchen), but the other drawers are not your typical cooking spices -- lilac, for instance. I must ask Maria and Dieter their opinion. Germans typically had apothecary chests similar to this in their house, although this is a particularly fine one. Nonetheless, it will hang in my kitchen along with my other spice chests!
Although this spice chest has no porcelain labels (only porcelain knobs), I love it because of its fine grain painting.
Kitchen antiques are my weakness, and German spice chests are my favorite! This example is the star of my collection and probably one-of-a-kind. It is ca. 1880 and combines lovely ivory carving with the wooden frame, which I think is possibly made of rosewood.
Note the carved snake which flanks both the left and right of the center medallion on the top and the lovely bouquet of flowers. A portion of one label can be seen. Labels have been made to look like banners with the names of the spices etched into the banners. Each drawer also has an ivory knob. A wonderful example of German folk art.
Drawers are also divided by ivory strips and lovely ivory columns finish off the sides. Here you can see a closeup of the extremely tiny nails used to attach the ivory trim and embellishments. The closeup photo makes the nails appear much larger than they really are.
Here is a classic early spice chest of fruitwood with labels and knobs in blue and white porcelain. Layout of the drawers on German spice chests is virtually always the same (although the names of the spices can vary) with two columns of drawers and a long drawer at the bottom for bay leaves.
Pictured is a rare 1800s tin spice box painted in Bierlasur, which is a grain painting technique, done in mustard yellow.
The spice box opens to reveal a circle of tin cannisters with clear glass lids. The original grater is fashioned in a long oval shape to fit perfectly in the center, along with the original spoon for dipping the spices. This was purchased in Germany, and I brought it home with me last week in my luggage. Many of the spice containers were still full of the original spices. I decided to empty them before flying, as the dogs at Customs Stateside might zero in on my suitcase with the heavy scent of spices and I would have been sent straight to Agricultural for inspection, which would not have been pretty. I could envision them confiscating the spice box, so I opted to toss the spices.
This is an 1880s wooden spice box made for the tourist market as it has scenes of Coburg as decorations all over the box.
A look inside reveals individual wooden containers with spice names written in old German script.
My apologies for the delay in my posting of Antique of the Week. Work pressures and then a recent trip to Germany and Belgium left time for little else. Now that I'm back and my body clock is slowly becoming adjusted to my time zone, I hope to have regular posts again!
Welcome to Living Tastefully’s “Antique of the Week” page. Our love of antiques is reflected in every aspect of our everyday lives. We are passionate about collecting and also love functional antiques that can actually be used and not only admired. Hopefully we can inspire you to incorporate antiques in your home and your life to add charm and beauty to your surroundings.