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Meissen

The V & A  museum in South Kensington in London while not the largest museum in the world in size is renowned to have the largest and finest collections of decorative arts unsurpassed by any museum. 

The moment you are confronted by virtually wall to ceiling display cabinets filled to the brim with ceramics from all corners of the globe it is not surprising the museum is recognised for its formidable collections. 

Whereas The Meissen Museum at the manufactory and the Zwinger Museum in Dresden may each have unsurpassed formidable collections of Meissen where the V & A stands apart has unparalleled collections of the entire field of decorative arts that includes Meissen porcelain and other English European and world ceramics.

Each of the following videos has its own merits as The Meissen Man explains; pointing out the common to the rare and the extraordinary in all categories. Be it service wares, vases or figures and groups. 

Time permitting he could spend his entire  life examining every piece on display to spot items of particular interest.  Italian Comedy is amongst the rarest of all of Kaendler’s porcelain masterpiece’s.  Back in the 1740’s owning a figure or a group of the Italian Comedy you would have had to have been an important member of the aristocracy or Merchant as only the wealthiest could afford. Furthermore there was great demand for the finest of quality. These pieces were made for display only to impress upon a person’s wealth.  The two figures here the first is a group of Pantaloone and Columbine circa 1742 and a further Crinoline group 1745.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaAsrsYL9BI 

As soon as you arrive into the porcelain galleries you are met by monumental floor to ceiling display cabinets full of an armada of Meissen and this is only a small selection compared to what the museum houses in its warehouse. Literally thousands of figures; groups, table and service wares from common examples sitting next to an army of rarities. Only the expert collector and specialist can pick out the rarest and most valuable from the more common and least collectable or of interest. However to the layman who wishes to learn more about the common design of the Meissen product. The display is a great starting point. 

As you walk closer towards the display you are confronted by Meissen Parrots and other birds and horses. The next shelf Meissen tradesman and merchants. The next shelf classical and other figures. But this is just getting a glimpse into the depth of the display cabinets from side. As you turn the corner the first plate you will see is an early Meissen Plate from the 1730’s after a Japanese plate made in the port of Arita painted predominately in the red and blue palette with two birds on a white ground cartouche. Sitting at the front of the seven dinner plate row is a Bottger porcelain plate with Hausmalerai decoration decorated by an Augsburg Silversmith. The adjoining display, dinner plates are lined up while on the shelves above larger serving wares.

Each item The Meissen Man walks past he is looking at several items rows deep of coffee pots and milk jugs with covers; beaker Bottger Redware flasks and relatively ordinary cups and saucers sit side by side.  As the camera looks upwards there is a birds eye view of the differences in the look of the cross swords mark. 

A sign advertises Germany and Austria; but the truth be known the majority of the items on display are Meissen.

2.18 minutes into the video is a view as though what is being seen in a market where the many are attending, tradesmen and women as well as romantic and classical figures and groups of all shapes and sizes. In the background sitting ominously are a rare pair of Lion and Lioness groups almost as though they ware watching and waiting to choose their next victim. 

2.40 mins is seen a rare Bottger Redware bust of a child next to an oriental lady that sits next to a number of Criers and tradesmen.  

Its only after a further two minutes spent having a second look at such a large quantity of figures that the camera moves downwards towards the ground where other manufacturers items are included including biscuit porcelain; an outstretched figure of Jesus Christ and a polychrome pagoda that is possibly Vienna.

5.00 mins in to the video and you are looking at a multitude of tea caddies of all shapes and forms, teapots of many different themes and decoration, sugar boxes dating back to the early 1720’s; tea-bowls and cups and saucers; the list of porcelain objects almost becomes endless. 

But this mammoth sized cabinet is only giving you a taste of what’s to come. Next on the list is some of the serious rarities. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2AYojPPipg It would appear that this is a repeat of the first video it is a shortened version. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uy10a5qQoGw This video may begin like the last two. However the object of this video is to illustrate the overwhelming interest from prospective customers. Simply there were more than the management could handle in their output to meet demands.

One way round this problem was to invite gold and silversmiths to paint on the natural white porcelain. Today these wares are known as Hausmalerai. However some pieces left the Manufactory undecorated and re-decorated in Holland and became known as Dutch Decorated. There as one or two of these pieces illustrated in the video the Meissen Man discusses. 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ko2TKDQ1n9I Here The Meissen Man walks you over to the older and original display cases where more appreciation can be seen as the majority of items are rarer than those in the huge displays. Here can be seen more easily their uniqueness. 

The beginning of the video begins with a shot of two shelves. The top illustrates an Oriental Dinner Plate with dragons round the rim next to two chargers one very large with the coat of arms of …… and a charger belonging to Count Bruhl’s swan service.

Immediately below is a Horoldt period Tea Pot, saucer and sugar box. Immediately behind is a Kakiemon dish illustrating the ‘Shiba Onko’ pattern depicting the eponymous figure throwing a stone at a fish bowl to save a friend from drowning.  Moving up a shelf is seen a very rare covered vase in another Japanese Kakiemon floral type design. These vases carried the rare Augustus Rex Mark of the early 1720’s. Most that might find their way into the auction salesrooms are invariably damaged or restored. Immediately to the right is a covered Bottger porcelain vase that dates from circa 1715 with a rather unusual raised decoration of bugs amongst floral work. 

Moments later The Meissen Man walks you back over to the main display. What is he doing you may be wondering. A moment ago he was talking about the rarer pieces being in the walled cabinets yet he zooms in on a Kakiemon sugar bowl and cover. For a moment you can examine the wonderful quality of the bright enamels. Next is another rare Kakiemon Dish painted with Tigers. Next to it is a Bottger Redware shiny sugar box and cover that is exceptionally rare. 

When the camera looks deeper into the display you begin to realise the exhibition of Meissen is so huge that even amongst these many thousands of items there are great rarities. Six oval sugar boxes and covers lie from one side of the display to the other. Each a rarity in its own right. Just too many for the department to display individually.

The camera then zooms on three more special pieces; a coffee pot, Rectangular tea caddy and teapot all with an unusual Chinese style painting. What makes these special is the subtleness of the decoration not the usual crowdedness that you might see on much of Meissen porcelain dating from the mid 1730’s. At the end of the display is a Marcolini Solitaire set on a tray circa 1790. 

Looking immediately at the shelf below you might be thinking looking at all the different coloured cups and saucers is getting too much to see at all once. But this is more to get an appreciation and understanding of the huge output the Meissen Manufactory put out during the first 50 years of its inception. 

The Meissen Man now takes you back quickly glimpsing at the main wall cabinets focusing on a  large group of a Chinaman as a fountain some 40 cm high; not easily seen through the reflective glass(modern display cabinets mostly have non reflective glass). This example is one of the rarest of its type ever made circa 1720. and was probably bequeathed to the museum. 

Important display of Meissen at the V & A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaAcPhfJVqE While the best place to learn about Meissen is either a specialist dealer or auction salesroom the timing might not be right to  learn about items as rare as Bottger stoneware and porcelain. Therefore you only alternative is a museum. The trouble with museum’s unless they have a study day enabling you to handle pieces you have little choice other than look behind display cases. 

While there is some reflection these first three items in the left side of the display cabinet are prime examples of Bottger item no’s 14-16. The teapot Redware with an unusual faceted design; a polished redware flask behind and 2nd teapot no15; has the unusual painted multicoloured raised floral work. In the earliest of examples it can be the most subtle of differences that can determine rarity or value even with the rarest of items.

The video continues with; no 18, a white Bottger porcelain raised floral teapot decorated with bugs held by an intertwined handle. Item no 17 is a rare earthenware tea bowl and saucer with gold leaf floral decoration circa 1710-15. 

There more fine and rare examples of Bottger porcelain are seen NO 19; a beaker and saucer. No 20 An extremely rare rectangular ‘Saki Bottle with raised decoration of a lady with a spear(most often the decoration is plainly floral). Figural decoration is very rare. No 21 A double handled raised floral decorated beaker and cover and a very early Bottger Porcelain Saki Bottle painted with a design after the Japanese Ceramic Maker Arita. Both the blue and white and white Saki Bottles would have been made from the same mould. 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ph9SzBGPZ1Q An interesting point I would like to make is that Bottger died in 1719 but the porcelain he was responsible was used on pieces unto and including the early 1730’s. Therefore much of the porcelain that was painted on by Horoldt is Bottger Porcelain. Horoldt is recognised as the master painter of porcelain comparable to Kaendler’s modelling of figural models. 

The covered lidded vase and the white beaker to the left are both painted by Bottger. However, the Saki Bottle is an example of Bottger porcelain that was decorated in Holland. When you learn to compare an example painted in the factory and a similar example painted outside is when you can spot the differences. Models painted outside of the factory are known as Hausmalerai. But in the case of being painted in a foreign country is known by the country it was painted in. You can find very rare items painted in London or as far afield as China.

The two saucers, tea bowl and silver mounted tankard are painted by Horoldt. The rarest item on this shelf goes to the tea bowl and saucer that is painted in the Bottger Lustreware no 10. Not 11 and 12 are relatively average in comparison. 

Just before the camera disappears off the shelf to the left is a Bottger redware rectangular coffee pot. 

The larger the object is the more challenging it was for the Modeller to get right. Often the larger pieces would have defects in one way or other; normally a firing crack while other pieces have survived the kiln and come out perfect. The vases on the top shelf are the serious rarities that rarely come onto the marketplace. When they do they are invariably restored. The lidded Vase in the Japanese Kakiemon pattern no 17 will have the AR mark. The Blue and White vase that would have originally come with a cover is retrospectively speaking rarer than the coloured example to its left. Blue and white during this period was a very difficult colour to paint and fire on the porcelain. Even today when it comes to restoring blue and white, even the most talented restorer will find accurate painting to replicate the original very challenging because blue and white changes colour in the light. 

The camera goes back down to the lower shelf where we see four more pieces of Bottger. A Sepia and white beaker; an Octagonal polished redware teapot; an extremely rare blue and white decorated Octagonal saucer and no 6 a copy of a Chinese Ming Blan de Chine Kendi(wine pot).

Getting down to the lower shelf we leave the world of Meissen momentarily. These three large pieces; the two soup tureens and the fountain to the right were all made by Du Pacquier who left the Meissen Manufactory early on in 1719 to form his own manufactory in Vienna. However Du Paquier only survived for 25 years and the there is only a fraction of pieces around the world compared to Meissen. Luckily for Meissen Du Paquier was never considered a threat to the secret of the Arcanum(the invention of hard paste porcelain). However sometimes it is difficult to establish what is Bottger porcelain or Du Paquier. 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fc6hS5Hz-YM  When watching this short video it is best to pause the video to inspect the items all early Meissen made unto circa 1730 in the style of the Japanese Kakiemon designs. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QJ-UvbkY-Q&t=13s  The first minute of this video is a quick over view of the items described in the above videos. From one minute onwards the theme changes. All the items on this shelf were painted by outside decorators. There is a part list of the names of these decorators to the right of the display cabinet. Watch out for other videos that will describe other items in these display cabinets briefly seen but not described. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDXFnumMTiI In this video The Meissen Man takes a long look at one of Kaendler’s finest creations; a particularly well painted group of the Italian Comedia D’Arte Actor and actress Pantaloone and Columbine. circa 1742. The other figure is another theme Kaendler is known for the Crinoline figures circa 1745. 

 

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