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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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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