Jean-Baptiste Stahl was the inventor and designer of the Phanolith. From the beginning, JBS modeled his figures very delicately. With the advance of his experience and understanding, he more and more developed his translucent style. Finally, he achieved mastery with pieces of Art Nouveau in that his rather flat porcelain reliefs demonstrate a fascinating three-dimensional illusion. Like a painter, JBS explored the variation of the translucency of the white porcelain to simulate changing lights, shadows, depth and plasticity.
Workshop at Villeroy & Boch ca. 1925.
From left to right apprentice Leo, Hans Stahl, Mr. Selzer, Jean-Baptiste Stahl, Mr. Vesely.
Johann Baptist and Angela Stahl, b. Bausch.
Jean-Baptiste Stahl (20.6.1869 – 31.1.1932) was the inventor and designer of the Phanolith. He was born in Oberbetschdorf, Alsace, in 1869, as the son of Louis Stahl (b. 1843) and Anna Maria Braun (b. 1841). He grew up in the traditional pottery of his family. His studies of ceramics, modeling and sculpture led him to Strasbourg and Höhr-Grenzhausen. His detailed, translucent and finely worked porcelain reliefs gained the highest award on the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris, the Grand Prix.
He created master pieces in the Art Nouveau style. Usually, the white translucent figures are finely set on a blue or green background that partly shines through. Striking is the detailed
modeling of his figures in a very delicate and lively way. In order to increase the three-dimensional illusion, he carefully modulated the transparency of the white porcelain. On the one hand,
parts of the scene and figures with higher translucency, i.e. darker tint, were precisely placed to evoke the impression of shadow. In addition, he used this means in a way to let parts in the
background systematically fade out the farer away they should appear. On the other hand, the most prominent figures in a scene show the highest fraction of pure white, creating airiness and
light. In this way Jean-Baptiste Stahl achieves mastery in that his rather flat reliefs evoke the illusion of space. Jean-Baptiste Stahl modelled his reliefs with a painter's eye that simulates
changing lights, shadows, depth and plasticity by varying the brightness of the colours.
In preparation of his porcelain reliefs he made precise pencil drawings that are partially colorized. A fraction of these were rescued post war, from the debris of the Villeroy&Boch factory building, by his grandson Erich Stahl, who was one year old when Jean-Baptiste Stahl died. All of Jean-Baptiste Stahl’s work was solely from his lifetime employment at Villeroy&Boch in Mettlach, Saarland, Germany, where he headed the factory's school of drawing. Besides himself, his son Hans Stahl (22.11.1898-13.1.1978) was employed as a modeler till retirement in 1963. As an apprentice, his grandson Erich Stahl (24.3.1931-10.2.2018) learned the old tradition of copper engraving as a pre-stage for the transfer of a certain kind of decors. Out of this craftsmanship he developed his own techniques in a period of over 65 years in the course of his unique work of art. Examples of his work can be found at the Albrecht-Dürer-Foundation in Nürnberg. With Branko Stahl (b.10.6.1963) the art tradition lives on in the Stahl family in the fourth generation.
Wedding of Hans Stahl and Veronika Gadomski 1924.
Back row from left to right: ?, Alvice Gadomski, Franz G., Adolph Stahl, Josef G., Peter St., ?
Middle row: Jean Ergy, ?, Frau Selzer, Herr Selzer, Johann Heinrich Graeber, Peter Bausch, ?, daughter Bausch, ?
Foreground: Katharina Ergy, Angela Stahl (b. Bausch), Jean-Baptiste Stahl, Veronika Gadomski, Hans Stahl, Phine G., daughter Bausch, Paul G.
House of the family in Mettlach.