The Meissen Man’s intention is to give the uninitiated a brief tour of the understanding of how the Meissen Porcelain Manufactory dominated porcelain making in Europe and in some respects where figural pieces were concerned even that of China whose colossal output far dwarfed that of Meissen due to the sheer number of population of Chinese ceramic makers. The difference being that in China mostly what was made were vessels, Chinese figural work in retrospect, especially that of the Tang Period some thousand years earlier was very crude in comparison. At Meissen at first was mostly made service wares then figural pieces followed -ensuite.
While The Meissen Man may write about what is so special about the Meissen Porcelain displayed in the Porcelain Rooms at the V&A, it is important to remember it is the largest collection outside of that of the Zwinger in Dresden. Like the majority of Museums what you see displayed is rarely everything and in most museums warehouses are volumes of objects. Much of what is displayed at the V&A is their permanent collection of porcelains, but so vast will appear to the novice unorganised with little visible information appear as common as muck. Yet in terms of rarity common might be sitting next to a rarity and only the trained eye is likely to be able to relate to this. Where items not crammed together, the visitor may have more of an understanding and take in the energy by studying the workmanship and see written information about the pieces displayed. The lack of this attribute is not just with Meissen but virtually every piece of porcelain contained within the display cabinets where the fashion is to group in volume multiple pieces from every major manufacturing centre possible.
Perhaps the reason for this anomaly is trying to contain amongst the largest collection of works of art in the world contained in a building that would be dwarfed when compared to the likes of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg Russia yet house as much in volume. To give the reader an understanding of the size of the Hermitage from east to west on the river side is around one kilometre.
Although Meissen, during the 18th century was a behind the invention of hard past porcelain in Europe their domination barely lasted barely fifty years to the onset of the seven years war in 1757 in Europe where the factory was taken over by the Prussian army. By the time of this unfortunate event the secret of the arcanum was out in the domain and the Meissen Manufactory had to contend with competition from hundreds of smaller factories around Dresden and Berlin and the advances of other nations interested in pursuing ceramic making gathered steam. Nevertheless, while competition gave the Meissen Management a never ending punishing period, to the present day they are still recognised for being the manufacturers of the finest painted porcelain that is found anywhere. Hence throughout the manufactory’s history the porcelain became a necessary component sitting on display in the homes of the Royalty Wealthy and Famous and even found interest from as far afield as China and Japan.
The Meissen Man feels that he has to give a little mention to porcelain production in China so that you can get a better understanding. While at Meissen Bottger was responsible for the invention of hard paste porcelain. In England the majority of porcelain is of soft paste. At Meissen the management did their best to keep the secret of the Arcanum, the knowledge of the making of hard paste porcelain in Europe. It was in part one of the reasons Bottger was incarcerated at the Albrechtburg, the Castle where Meissen was first invented but the other reason making Augustus The Strong King of Saxony believe he could turn stone into Gold. Sadly Bottger died an early death from Alcoholism.
The Meissen Man hopes with each of his videos you can learn a little about why Meissen Porcelain still retains its popularity around the world possibly more-so than any other ceramic factory.
During Meissen’s first years of production many of the more notable pieces seen on Bottger Porcelain were derived from silver shapes. In 1710 Augustus the Strong invited the Silversmith J. J. Irminger to produce in porcelain shapes he used for silver with applied decoration in porcelain to imitate precious metals. Another notable decorator was Ignaz Preissler (1676-1729) who painted similar pieces. It was around 1720 that was established a new breed of painter known as Hausmaler (outside decorated). It is interesting to note that this term was used to describe inferior pieces made from the late 18th century but predominately seen on 19th century and later Meissen with cancellations through the cross swords mark.
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has one of the best collections of 18th century Meissen outside of Saxony (East-Germany). Literally thousands of pieces are on display to the pubic at any one time.
Be it Bottger Porcelain or phenomenal rarities by Kaendler or Kirchner the novice collector is liable to be stunned by the huge variety compressed into a handful of floor to ceiling display cabinets, with a few additional rarities dotted around the museum including an amazing fountain that is more than four metres wide. A unique piece modelled by Johann Joachim Kaendler that slipped away from the Royal Collection in Dresden. Kaendler built this monumental piece with the help of assistants for Count Heinrich von Bruhl in 1745-46. The fountain was used as a table centrepiece for his guests to admire. A similar fountain can be found in Dresden
Meanwhile at the other end of the spectrum as far as sizes were concerned such large pieces were not often manufactured because of the difficulties encountered in the firing of very large examples that could often falter in their making, the heat causing large unsightly cracks.
In the early 18th century the focus was no so much about how big a piece was but more-so how well it was painted. Because Meissen Porcelain was at this time becoming so very fashionable with orders from aristocrats and Royalty in order to fulfil all the requirements there were not enough modellers in employ and therefore, decorators from outside the manufactory were invited to work independently within Meissen’s walls.
In the following video are displayed some of the earliest pieces of Meissen made by Bottger. Towards the end is a magnificent model of a Chinaman encased in a rocky floral cage. But it was that of artists who were not employed by Meissen. This anomaly occurred because what was in fashion at the beginning of the 18th century were vessels in the shapes of silver and gold hence the term that was sometimes used for these Meissen rarities, “White Gold”.
Items 30-35 in the video are representative of a number of silver and goldsmiths were invited and their collective name is Hausmaler (outside decorated). Hausmaler is not to be confused with an addition to the cross swords mark that was seen on many examples of Meissen during the 19th century where a cancellation is seen either over of next to the crossed swords mark(these indentations mostly incised but sometimes painted are thought to be seconds). But the real story behind the 19th century outside decorated has never been fully understood and differs vastly from those pieces made during the factory’s first 30 years until 1740. After this few of the first ‘outside decorators’ were left alive and even fewer were invited to participate in the painting of the porcelain. This was more because by the decade prior to the seven years war the porcelain department run by Kaendler was producing vast amounts of design. Thousands of pieces were being sold to major aristocracy and these were the boom years for the factory whose management including its biggest customer Von Bruhl were enjoying vast profits period.
The following video begins with a selection of services wares, tankards, followed by vases in the Japanese Kakiemon style and then onwards to the Hausmaler (“30-35”).