Enfilade

Meissen Turns 300

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on June 30, 2010

Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgeoisie, 1710-1815
Staatliche Kunstammlungen, Dresden, 8 May — 29 August 2010

Meissen beaker and cover, 1727 (Amsterdam: Rijkmuseum)

The exhibition presents a comprehensive overview of Meissen Porcelain art from the Baroque to the Biedermeier era. Meissener Porzellan (Meissen Porcelain) has never before been displayed in this context alongside works of art on loan from all around the world. The Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden are taking the anniversary of the invention of European porcelain as an opportunity to exhibit Meissen Porcelain for the first time in the building which August the Strong dedicated to the presentation of the royal porcelain treasures from the Far East and from Meissen – the Japanisches Palais.

In 1710 August the Strong established the first European porcelain manufactory in Meissen. Thereafter, Meissen Porcelain swiftly became an indispensable status symbol for the European aristocracy. Today, it continues to be the epitome of sophisticated table culture and luxurious room décor. In order to create an appropriate setting in which to indulge his ‘maladie de porcelaine’, the Elector planned to convert the Japanisches Palais into a Porcelain Palace. This project, however, was never completed.

The exhibition Triumph of the Blue Swords encompasses a total of around 800 porcelain items, including a large number of the holdings of the Dresden collection that are not normally on public display. They are complemented by a wide range of items on loan from museums and collections around the world in places as diverse as California, Moscow, New York, London, Paris, Prague and Budapest. The development and manufacture of porcelain, which has previously only been demonstrated with reference to a small number of specimens, will be presented in detail, drawing upon the latest research findings.

The exhibition focuses on the period up to 1815, during which Meissen developed the whole spectrum of possibilities that would thereafter be open to European porcelain. In these first hundred years, Meissen was the epitome of European porcelain art, long defying the competition from the newly founded manufactories and even managing to survive the crises of the Seven Years War and the Napoleonic Wars, right down to the present day. Until 1756 Meissen was the predominant manufactory in Europe; after that, the leading role was taken over by Sèvres, and Meissen had to reposition itself. Unlike previous presentations, this exhibition consciously integrates the concept of crisis and new beginnings.

The exhibition pays particular attention to the table service. For one thing because, as the most important product of the Meissen Manufactory, it has had a profound influence on table culture in general. For another, because it especially underlines the importance of Meissen Porcelain for diplomatic gifts. Among the items on display are two table services commissioned by the Prussian King Friedrich II: a service designed on a Prussian/musical theme with a green scale-pattern rim, and the set known as the “Möllendorff” service, which was a gift for the Prussian General Möllendorff. Both services are opulently displayed on a dinner table. The Meissen Manufactory was the first to produce a table service made of porcelain.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by E. A. Seemann Verlag Leipzig: Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgeoisie 1710-1815 by Ulrich Pietsch and Claudia Banz (eds.)

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In Apollo Magazine, Louise Nicholson profiles two of the collectors who have offered loans for the exhibition, Kurt and Jutta Salfeld, whose porcelain birds are among the rarest of all Meissen production.

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