Meissen Part II: The Larger European Context

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on July 1, 2010

The Fascination of Fragility: Masterpieces of European Porcelain
Ephraim-Palais, Berlin, 9 May — 29 August 2010

This unique exhibition paints a vivid picture of 18th-century European porcelain. The entire spectrum of European porcelain is on show, from elegant French court porcelain and English wares to German and Italian porcelains with their bright colours and bold forms. For this exceptional show the Ephraim-Palais has been turned into a magical ‘Porcelain Palace’. When presented in such an international context, the collected masterpieces of the most famous Berlin manufactory, the KPM, also develop their own special charisma.

This special exhibition in Berlin is part of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden’s tercentenary celebrations commemorating the invention of European hard-paste porcelain. The exhibition – organised in association with the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin – encompasses around 500 objects, including about a hundred porcelains from the holdings of the Porzellansammlung of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. Porcelain wares from the Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Berlin held in the Stadtmuseum Berlin as well as items on loan from the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Musée national du Céramique in Sèvres complete the exhibition.

The exhibition places Meissen Porcelain within the context of European porcelain culture. Particular attention is therefore paid to masterpieces from other European manufactories . Outstanding objects are on display from each of the approximately 50 manufactories. The exhibition focuses on the specific features of the products of each manufactory, as well as showing the shared elements which gave rise to a common tradition. Both the influence of Meissen por-celain on the wares produced by other manufactories and the effect of other Euro-pean manufactories on the Saxon products is clearly illustrated.

Exactly 300 years ago, August the Strong established the first European hard-paste porcelain manufactory in Meissen. Thereafter, Meissen porcelain swiftly became an indispensable status symbol for the European aristocracy. Until the middle of the 18th century, the Meissen manufactory was the leading force in porcelain design, setting standards for table and dining culture and laying down the entire repertoire of forms and styles of decor. From the mid-18th century onwards, there was a boom in the production of porcelain. Newly established manufactories entered into serious competition with Meissen. They emancipated themselves from the dominance of Meissen and introduced their own innovations. Meissen gradually lost the upper hand to Berlin and Sèvres, which now took over the leading role in Europe.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by E. A. Seemann Verlag Leipzig: The Fascination of Fragility. Masterpieces of European Porcelain by Ulrich Pietsch and Theresa Witting (eds.). Price: 49.90 Euro.

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