Seraphia von Löwenfinck de Beckè

Ceramics Factory director of the 18th century

Seraphia von Löwenfinck de Beckè (1728 - 1805) lived an astonishing life at the cusp of the then-new and booming porcelain industry. She was a sought-after ceramics painter throughout the 18th century and over the course of her career was made director of three ceramics manufacturing businesses.


Maria Seraphia Susanna Magdalena Schick was born in 1728 to middle-class parents in Fulda, Germany. Together with two brothers, Seraphia grew up in a comfortably situated household where her early perceptible artistic talent was nurtured. Her father Johann Philipp Schick was a gilder and lacquerer and enjoyed the trust of the prince-bishop who had made him a chamberlain. This connection, which was extremely useful for Schick, also enabled him to become a member of the town council. In this politically influential position, he strongly advocated the establishment of a faïence (earthenware ceramics) manufactory. This was the time when ceramics production was all the rage in Europe, fuelled by recent breakthroughs in porcelain and earthenware making. Johann Schick succeeded in this endeavour and the Fulda factory began its production in 1741. He would also later bring the production of porcelain to Fulda in 1764, managing the factory until his death.  

Seraphia thus grew up as a child of the up-and-coming bourgeoisie of the 18th century, the era of Enlightenment, a growing self-confidence of this middle class combined with increased social mobility. She must have been extremely intelligent and observant to make her way so successfully. By virtue of her father's involvement in the booming ceramics business, her artistic talents could be applied to this lucrative new sector and she became a well-regarded painter. Her style shows a sure but delicate hand with lively motifs.


The new faïence factory brought many craftsmen to Fulda, including Adam Friedrich von Löwenfinck, who came from Kalisch in present-day Poland. Adam had begun an apprenticeship in Meissen at the age of thirteen and is now regarded as one of the most influential ceramic painters of his time. The talented young painter found a home in the house of Schick after he was hired by the factory. At a time when young people could generally only meet in the presence of others for dances, walks or dinners, the domestic circle must have given Seraphia and Adam a happy opportunity to get to know each other well and experience each other in various situations. Seraphia married him on October 28, 1747. By living together, they probably entered into marriage with more familiarity and knowledge of each other's personalities than most other couples of their time. The Schick parents must have been aware of what bringing a young man into the family circle with a young daughter could achieve. They must have appreciated Adam as a person and an artist and must have considered him a suitable match due to his talent and commitment to the factory.
After their wedding, Adam and Seraphia initially continued working together in Fulda, but they soon moved on. Both were as skilled as they were ambitious. This was the time when porcelain was spreading like wildfire across Europe and huge profits awaited to the daring ones, despite the high risk of losing entire valuable batches to misfiring in the poorly controllable kilns.

In 1746, Adam founded the Höchst Porcelain Manufactory in Höchst am Main (now part of Frankfurt) together with Johann Christoph Göltz. Seraphia was certainly involved in this, even if she was not able to become a contractual party due to the laws of the era prohibiting wives from taking economic action independently. In 1748, at the age of twenty, Seraphia gave birth to her first child: their daughter Maria Apollonia.

Unfortunately, Adam and Johann Christoph Göltz already parted ways in 1749 due to financial disagreements. The young Löwenfinck family therefore moved to Schönbornlust where they intended to start their own ceramics business, although they abandoned the idea soon after and were forced to look for new career paths. Adam and Seraphia and their children finally settled in Strasbourg, where the faïence and porcelain manufacturer Paul Hannong ran a business that his father had built up and which also had a branch in nearby Hagenau. Adam was appointed head of the manufactory branch in Hagenau in 1750. There, Seraphia also took up her work as a painter again, to good acclaim. The couple were so dedicated, and economically as artistically competent that both Adam and Seraphia enjoyed the full trust of the Hannong family. This would turn out to be crucial.


Adam's growing fame and family happiness were cut short by his untimely and sudden death in 1754. Seraphia was left a widow. Beyond her own grief at the loss of her business partner and husband whom she clearly loved, she was now a single mother with several children. But Seraphia's path was - through luck and hard work - not to be the one that many widowed young mothers took or had to take in the 1700s. She did not return to her parents' care or move in with her late husband's family. Nor did she remarry at the first opportunity.

Instead, Paul Hannong put her in charge of the Hagenau faïence manufacturing branch in Adam's place. He thus made her director of a large number of craftspeople, business partners, negotiations and salespeople.

And she did phenomenally well.


12 April, 2024

Part 2 coming soon.


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