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Derivatives of Meissen

A little over a hundred miles south of Berlin is the city of Dresden on the Elbe River in Saxony. Fourteen miles west and also in the Elbe Valley is the town of Meissen. Both these cities owe their fame as porcelain centers to a discovery made in Dresden which proved of great economic and social significance to the western world.

There, in 1709, Johann Friedrich Bottger, a young alchemist under the patronage of Augustus II, invented a hard-paste porcelain comparable to that produced in China. Shortly afterwards, a factory was established in a fortress in Meissen which thrived, and by 1730 had set the standard for all the great Continental and English porcelain houses.

The Meissen factory did not long have a monopoly either of its formula or of the wares that resulted. As early as 1718 the secret of this hard-paste porcelain had escaped to Vienna by way of two runaway employees, Stolzel and Hunger. These two, one a chemist and the other an enameler, helped Claude du Pacquier, a Hollander, to found a factory in the Austrian capital. After a checkered financial history, it was bought by the Empress Marie Theresa and became a royal enterprise in 1744.

More desertions of Meissen workmen occurred, resulting in other porcelain factories being erected in Germany and elsewhere. One of the chief peddlers of the Meissen porcelain technique was Joseph Jacob Ringlet who left the Vienna factory in 1748. Directly or indirectly, he was responsible for ten new German ventures. Six of them prospered considerably, among them being Hochst (1746-1796) and Ludwigsburg (1788-1824).

These various factories all imitated the porcelains being made at Meissen which, however, still maintained its leadership until the Seven Years War when the Prussians looted the town and carried away thirty boxes of porcelains. Meissen workmen were marched off to Berlin to work in a factory that had already been started in 1750 by runaway workmen from Hochst.

While all of these factories made figures similar to Meissen, some paralleled it in quality of paste, others in glaze and decoration. The designs, however, tended to be too ornate. The Bacchic nymph sacrificing a goat is exceptionally well modeled, as is the eighteenth-century youth. The latter is claid in pale yellow breeches and is playing a flute. His dog at his feet is done in a most appealing pose. The genre figure of a peddler in blue breeches with a tray of bottles was made at Hochst in the late eighteenth century. Finally, there is the overly pretty figure of a youth in a figured yellow coat holding a floral chain. A typical example of the work done at Vienna around 1770, it is finely modeled but rather too ornate, like so much of the Vienna porcelain.



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