Furniture & Decorative Arts

Meissen Porcelain

NEW YORK, NY -- Hailed as 'white gold', porcelain's allure was unmatched in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. For centuries, wealthy patrons and nobility alike collected porcelain from Asia. Capitalizing on the desire for domestic production, Johann Friedrich Böttger invented the first European product in Meissen, Germany in 1708. Under the patronage of Augustus II, elector of Saxony and King of Poland, the alchemist created "hard-paste" porcelain, which differed from its "soft-paste" cousin of the 16th and 17th centuries with the inclusion of kaolin in the ceramic body, giving the product its strength and desired translucency.

Making the most of the opportunity, the first hard-paste factory in the West was set up at the Albrechtsburg Castle in Meissen in 1710 to supply the region with colorful and delicate porcelain wares. Thus, the Meissen porcelain manufactory was established, from which sprang impressively large figures of animals for the court, as well as immense superbly decorated dinner services, figures and   delicate tea wares. Lavish diplomatic gifts of porcelain were given to dignitaries at the German court, often skillfully and colorfully decorated with flowers.

Another development that influenced the demand for porcelain wares was the new fashion for beverages such as tea, coffee and chocolate. The popularity of these imports in turn necessitated the purchase of new drinking vessels. Decorated with ornate hand-painted scenes and gilding, Lot 59 and Lot 94, each a single cup and saucer decorated with ornate hand-painted scenes and gilding, demonstrate the detail put into even the smallest piece. The translucency of the thin-bodied porcelain of Lot 59 exhibits the goal achieved by Meissen, to create their own “true” porcelain.

The makers at Meissen were influenced by both the quality of material and the decorative elements of objects exported from Asia. Lot 50 is decorated with the Japanese legend of "Shiba Onko" in a traditional Kakiemon style. Kakiemon includes delicate multi-colored designs in iron-red, blue, green, and yellow that highlight the white porcelain without obscuring it. This lot features the "Hob in the Well" pattern, popularized by Parisian merchant Rudolphe Lemaire. As the market for Meissen imports grew in France it became dominated by marchands-merciers like Lemaire. His contract was abruptly terminated when it was revealed that he was attempting to pass off Meissen imports as original Japanese Kakiemon porcelain. A portion of the production, including Lot 50, was seized by Augustus II and ended up in the Japanese Palace in Dresden as part of his collection. The Japanese Palace was founded in 1715 to house Augustus’ collection. It is now known as the Dresden Porcelain Collection.

This plate includes the incised Japanese Palace inventory number N=37 W. This number, sometimes referred to as the “Johanneum Number”, confirms that the plate was once housed in the Saxon Royal Collection at the Japanese Palace and is found on other wares with the same provenance. The “W” refers to “White Saxon Porcelains”. A similarly decorated dish with the same inventory number can be found at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Johann Gregorius Höroldt arrived in Meissen as a porcelain painter in 1720. He, too, imitated Chinese and Japanese porcelain designs. During his time at Meissen, he also established a workshop system through which other painters could access his own drawings. Even so, Höroldt's ultimate legacy at the factory was developing sixteen new overglaze enamel colors. Some of these bright colors can be seen in the green and fuchsia grounds of Lot 27 and Lot 94.

Another important figure at Meissen, Johann Joachim Kändler, arrived at the factory in 1731. A gifted sculptor, Kändler created molds for figural groups and animal sculptures. The realism and elegance with which he sculpted further elevated the status of Meissen. Lot 2 depicts Kändler’s model of a recumbent bull on a flower-strewn base. This form is recorded in Taxa notes for 1740-48; '1 Ochse, von zieml. Grosse, wie er liegt und ruhet, natürlich vorgestellert. 6 Thlr'.

Featured in Special Collections: The Estate of Myles Lowell, these and other objects recall the glamour of the storied brand as well as Lowell's exquisite taste. He and other collectors valued the beauty and sophistication that Meissen porcelain provide. Lowell's Meissen and other porcelain pieces, interspersed with signed French furniture and modern touches, continued the legacy of the early European men of taste. Meissen’s cross-cultural influences, historic importance and elegance carries on for today’s collectors.

Special Collections: The Estate of Myles Lowell

The November 19 auction of The Estate of Myles Lowell offers collectors the exciting opportunity to acquire exquisite examples of porcelain created at the Meissen porcelain manufactory.

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Client Relationship Manager / Cataloguer, American Furniture & Decorative Arts
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