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Glamorgan Antiques Newsletter

Special Edition Newsletter # 2 - MEISSEN or DRESDEN,THE PORCELAIN MASTERS

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Welcome all to this 2ndSpecial Edition newsletter from Glamorgan antiques.We hope that it will appeal to all lovers of Meissen and Dresden, whether newcomers or more experienced Collectors.Anyway, the learning process in Antiques never ends,we all get to be more experienced but we never stop learning.


If you are interested in purchasing items described in our newsletter please view our stock Meissen and Dresden on our Porcelain page

Everyone interested in Ceramics will have doubtless heard of Dresden or Meissen Porcelain.No other factory can claim such a wonderful and illustrious history as this one does.The usual items that spring to mind are the delightful figures of Shepherds and Shepherdesses, in looped up dresses, and wearing Loius XV style high heeled shoes.
All kinds of figures were made in Dresden but one peculiarity of them all is, that with very few exceptions, they all represent some elegant employment,graceful love scenes,dancing the Minuet or playing a Mandolin.They are never ever depicted doing anything of an everyday normal working persons routine as this would have been deemed too vulgar.In other words the Dresden items were made entirely for the upper class European families to display in their palatial homes.
The first that we hear of the celebrated Meissen or Dresden factory is around the year 1706.It was established at that time by Augustus the 2nd,King of Poland and Elector of Saxony.In speaking of Dresden china,the names Meissen and Dresden are used indifferently, and ,although the factory is at Meissen,Dresden being the capital of the area, has come to be used more often, when we speak of the fine porcelain figures and the amazing centrepieces. Meissen seems to be used of more when we speak of the gloriousTableware that was also produced there.This duplication of names is at first puzzling to the beginner of the study of china.
Modern Dresden is very pretty and very dainty,also the toiletry sets and the dessert services are frequently found throughout Europe,including a great amount in the British Isles..The British people have always held a passion for fine porcelain, and this has been the way for 200 years.The modern mark is usually the word Dresden with a crown above it, and oftentimes you will see the word Meissen impressed as well.Although there is sometimes no apparent mark at all, apart from the incised potters and painters marks.The old mark of the blue crossed swords is more usually found on the earlier Dresden items, but study of the porcelain will show considerable differences between the antique and the later items.It is also of course classed as hard paste porcelain, or true porcelain.English porcelain is completely different being soft paste,with the exception of Plymouth and Bristol.
The first important name we hear of in the early 1700's is Bottcher. He was the director of the factory.The first china produced at Meissen was a fine red stoneware.In 1711, a gentleman called Schnorr, a wealthy resident of the Erzgebirge,when riding at Aue near Schneeberg,noticed that his horse's feet were continually clogged with a soft putty like white clay.At that time there was an outcry against the heavy expense of hair powder made from wheat, and this white powder seemed a possible substitute.It was dried and experiments made by various people.Bottcher being a chemist,analysed it and found to his astonishment,that it contained Kaolin, which was what he needed for the porcelain which he had been attempting to make for some years.
The clay was procured and sent in casks sealed by persons, some who were dumb, and the others who were sworn to secrecy under fearful oaths to keep the secret, and these oaths were then nailed up in conspicuous places all over the factory.These rules for enforcing secrecy existed down to 1812,when by arrangement they were permitted to be infringed in order that Brongniart from Sevres should be permitted to visit the Dresden factory.
Bottcher carried on the works with varying success intil 1715, when he succeeded in making the delicate pure white porcelain which is now so difficult to obtain.He died in 1719,and it is supposed that up to the time of his death nothing,but this white porcelain,undecorated with colour came from Dresden.
It was about 1730,that Kandler superintended the making of the figures.He was a sculptor,evidently of great talent, and he turned his attention to the production of figures,groups and those wonderfully modelled wreaths of flowers,clusters of fruit and swinging cupids,executed in the round,which we associate with the Dresden factory.Frequenty these wreaths and bunches of flowers and fruit are applied on a surface thickly studded with small raised flowers,a piling of ornament on ornament.Some specimens are covered with Forget me nots, and tiny yellow canaries, and it was between 1731 and 1756 the best Dresden work was produced.
However, in 1750 the factory was placed under the directorship of Count Bruhl, who was a bit of an eccentric..Bruhl had 1500 suits of clothes with wigs and snuff boxes to match each suit, so,truly china making must have been a paying concern in those days! Some more confirmation of Bruhl's love of finery is supplied by the fact that one of the best known and esteemed groups of Kandler's designing was one representing Bruhl's tailor and his wife mounted on goats,carrying all the paraphernalia of their business with them!
The plain white china, already mentioned, was the most esteemed of all the Dresden productions, and it is said that this special kind was only made for Royalty, and was not sold to the public at all.We do know that a complete service belonging to the Duke of Brunswick was valued at £10,000.
The prohibition of common folk using this make of china was probably withdrawn later, for sometimes we see it in private collections,although it may have got there from descent as some fine items often do.Usually the owners have no idea how they came to own these wonderful pieces, and the answer is usually given that the items have been "handed down" through the generations.The paste of this early china is intensely white, inclining to a bluish tinge rather than to ivory.
However,the kind of Dresden most familiar to the public must be the candlesticks,candelabra and vases, brilliantly but softly coloured, encrusted with florets and tiny leaves,sadly more often than not damaged as the years pass by.Also, we still find the Gallants and the lovers and the small Dresden Shepherdesses.Some of the centrepieces however are so encrusted with flowers that they give no rest for the eye, and seem almost too overdone.
The days of the brilliance of the Dresden/Meissen factory are now over.Thankfully we still have a legacy of wonderful tableware and romantic figurines that, although, often only to be seen in Museums,sometimes we are lucky enough to be able to handle and subsequently own the items, when, as they sometimes do appear in auction sales after lying dormant in some private collection for many years.These great named pieces do not come cheaply, and often run into many hundreds of Pounds or Dollars.However, when we realise that we are are now the owners of an item made in the greatest of all china factories,the money will have been well spent, their values increasing steadily,far better than any stocks or shares ever will.

If you are interested in purchasing items described in our newsletter please view our stock Meissen and Dresden on our Porcelain page


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