|Antiques Digest||Browse Auctions||Appraisal||Home|
BERLIN CHINA - 1750 TO PRESENT DAY
HISTORY. With the help of runaway workmen from Hochst, the hard paste porcelain factory at Berlin was started under Wilhelm Caspar Wegeli in 1750. Some exlcellent tableware and also figures inspired by those of Meissen were made here, but business difficulties and lack of sufficient interest on the part of the King, who seemed to feel that Wegeli's china was not distinguished enough in character to suit his ambitions, drove Wegeli to give up the works in 1757. Under Reichard, who succeeded him, little advance was made. In 1761 Gotzkowski took the works which then acquired all the loot from Meissen and a number of Dresden workmen. It was Frederick the Great's ambition that the Berlin china should equal or excel the products of Meissen and Gotzkowski's management becoming involved in financial embarrassment, in 1763 the King himself took over the establishment and became sole owner. Thereafter the factory continued as a royal enterprise.
Frederick had no intention of keeping the factory merely as an expensive plaything. He was determined it Zaould pay for itself, and not only pay for itself but make a profit. He accordingly adopted some drastic measures towards this end. The Berlin lotteries were compelled to distribute 10,000 thalers' worth of china annually, no Jew could obtain a marriage certificate till he had bought a set of Berlin china, and in various other ways the sales were assiduously pushed. These methods put the factory on its feet as a business concern and it entered upon a course of prosperity that has continued to the present day.
THE BODY. At first the Berlin china was made of materials from Passau and, owing to impurities, the paste shewed a yellowish-grey tinge, but about 1771 with materials from Silesia and Halle a paste was produced that was very hard, dense of texture and a cold white in color. These qualities have been maintained ever since.
THE GLAZE. The glaze was hard, clear, brilliant and technically perfect, but the "severe" character of both paste and glaze made it impossible to secure the bright, glowing color that could be secured with the less refractory glaze of soft paste porcelain.
ARTICLES MADE AND CONTOUR. For some time the wares produced consisted chiefly of dinner services, tea, coffee and chocolate equipages, and breakfast sets, along with a few figures, glazed and decorated. Later the wares shewed more variety and elaboration and a number of ornate vases and other decorative accessories were produced, as well as figures in biscuit.
Although the methods of Meissen manufacture were followed and Meissen workmen and decorators employed, Frederick's admiration for French art dictated the following of French forms and the Rococo style consequently flourished at the Berlin factory in a most pronounced manner, although not with quite the same extravagance sometimes displayed under Kandler's inspiration at Meissen. Nevertheless, some trivial grotesqueries were indulged in, such as making lace decoration by coating lace with porcelain slip, the lace being burned out in the firing and leaving the pattern behind it. Late in the century the Neo-Classic mode made itself felt in contour as well as decoration and, in due time, the Empire manner succeeded.TYPES OF DECORATION. Underglaze blue decoration was much used in the early days of the factory, and moulded low reliefs in the form of ribbing, scrolls and basket-work patterns were exceedingly favoured. The early color schemes were simple and the palette limited. Often enough a scheme was carried out with only rose color and grey, red, black and gold or red, green and gold. The palette was subsequently enlarged. The rose color of the Berlin china was highly characteristic as Frederick The Great was very partial to it, but the paste and glaze used were of too "severe" a type ever to get the same beautiful rose Pompadour that appeared on the soft paste porcelain of Sevres. Landscapes, figures and floral subjects , were frequently painted in monocrome, and for these rose color was much used as well in the combinations with other colors. Diaper borders, even in the form of a small scale pattern which the Germans called "mosaik" were freely employed and for these again, the characteristic rose color was favoured. Small scattered flowers, or small flowers in garlands, wreaths ; festoons furnished much of the decoration in connexion with these diapered rose borders; likewise, largerflowers in organised composition were not seldom seen.There were also a number of colored grounds with reserve Panels in which appeared flowers, birds, landscpes and figures.The fashions of Sevres were by no means without their visible influence, especially in the latter part of the eighteenth century when the Neo-Classic mode was paramount. Transfer printing made its appearance about the end of the eighteenth century.
THE MARKS. The mark during the factory's initial period under Wegeli's direction was a W in underglaze blue, with the strokes of the letter crossed. Under Gotz kowski the mark was a crudely formed G. When the factory became a royal possession the mark was a sceptre, adopted in allusion to the sceptre borne by the Electors of Brandenburg as Grand Chamberlains of the Empire. Later, the two sceptres of the Hohenzollerns were used, crossed saltire-wise, thus resembling the crossed swords of Saxony.