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Antique Collectors' Dictionary (M1)

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Meissen: Europe's first and most important hard-paste porcelain manufactory, situated some twelve miles from Dresden, Saxony, Germany, founded in 1710 and named the Royal Saxon Porcelain Manufacture. The first years were largely experimental. Two classes of ware were made, true porcelain and red stoneware, both the invention of J. F. Bottger (q.v.). By about 1714 the factory was in commercial production. Bottger died in 1719 and the venture might well have collapsed had not the King (Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland) appointed a Commission to reorganize and enlarge the factory. Progress was almost uninterrupted from 1720 to 1756 (the year the Seven Years War broke out); a disturbed period followed and by the time the factory management was reconstituted (1763-t) Meissen faced serious competition from other European factories, particularly from Sevres. The so-called 'Academic Period' followed (1763-74) and then came the period of Marcolini's management (1774-1814). In the nineteenth century the decline was unspectacular.

Until 1733: Shapes at first followed those of contemporary baroque silver. Painted decoration was undistinguished until 1720 when Johann Gregor Herold, enameller and miniaturist, came to Meissen. As Art Director, Herold was responsible for painted decoration and the colours -evolved and he soon gave the factory a brilliant palette. Underglaze blue, though never particularly successful at Meissen, dates from about 1725, as do most of the famous ground colours, yellow, blue, green, lilac, grey, crimson-purple. Some of the finest painted decoration was done in the Chinese and Japanese styles; but landscapes and harbour scenes are also notable. Figures were made, animals, grotesque human figures such as dwarfs, but this was the great period of painted decoration; modelling came into its own with tlie advent of Kandler.

1733-63: Johann Joachim Kandler (q.v.) came to Meissen in 1731 and was appointed chief modeller in 1733. With him the baroque (although by this time giving way to the rococo) found expression in terms of porcelain. He almost invented the 'figure' and that it later became the 'Dresden figure' was no fault of his. He drew inspiration from many and diverse sources and his figures range from Harlequin to street trader, shepherdess to artisan, gallant to Olympian god, court lady to monkey band. His earliest work is his best. Though he adapted himself to the rococo style he was never happy in it.

Modelled and moulded relief decoration was introduced to table wares and vases. Scrolls and basketwork patterns became more and more elaborate as the influence of the rococo style grew stronger. What began as border decoration (on plates, for example) spread over the entire surface. Moulded flowers had a vogue; the lips and handles of jugs and coffee-pots carried scrolls and flourishes. Tureens in the form of vegetables and animals were made in the 1740's and 50's. As regards painted decoration, chinoiseries remained popular. Formal Oriental flower patterns had a vogue until c. 1740, when more naturalistic European flower painting came into favour. At about this time, too, pastoral scenes deriving from Watteau and other French painters were introduced, and later, in the 1750's, mythological subjects.

1764-74: The Academic Period. Michel-Victor Acier, a French sculptor, was appointed chief modeller, jointly with Kandler, in 1764. Herold retired in 1765. The old order was giving way to a new neo-classicism. Symmetry, and rather stiff symmetry at that, replaced the rococo curve. Painted decoration became more and more naturalistic. The prevailing styles of Sevres were followed. Lace decoration (lace dipped in slip and then applied to a figure; during firing the material burned away leaving the mesh design on the ware) dates from c. 1770. This was all very well but, clearly, the great days were over. 1774-1814: Count Camillo Marcolini was appointed Director in 1774. He did what he could to revive Meissen's prosperity, but circumstances (not least in the form of Wedgwood's wares) were against him. The Thuringian factories imitated (and under-cut) Meissen; Meissen imitated Sevres. Topographical decoration was good but uninspired. The financial position the factory was precarious; Marcolini sold much defective white porcelain that had accumulated over the years in order to raise money.

The nineteenth century: The classical style lasted until about 1830. The influence of Wedgwood is to be discerned. Lithophanes (q.v.) were a popular novelty introduced in 1828. The rococo style was revived between 1835-70 and Dresden figures were produced in enormous numbers. The export trade to England and the United States in the second half of the nineteenth century was big business. Most of the 'Dresden' china to be found in antique shops today is late nineteenth century. (Many experts apply the term 'Meissen' to eighteenthcentury products of this factory, and the term 'Dresden' to wares produced after 1800.)

Crossed swords are the famous mark, first used about 1724. A dot between the hilts signifies the Academic Period; a star between the hilts was applied during the Marcolini management.

Melas Rugs: From south-west Asia Minor, with narrow fields and broad main stripes. Red, yellow, ivory, blue, mauve; and coarsely loose with sixty to eighty Ghiordiz knots to the square inch.

Mendelsham Chair: A type of Windsor chair as made at Mendlesham in Suffolk in the early nineteenth century. The back usually has a straight top rail and a narrow upright splat.

Mennecy: Soft-paste porcelain made at this factory between 1735 and 1785, at first in the style of Saint-Cloud and later in the style of Sevres. Kakiemon patterns are a feature of early wares. The factory transferred to Bourg-la-Reine in 1773. The usual mark is 'DV'.

Menuisier: French term that corresponds to the English 'carpenter'. One who worked in plain or carved woods lacking veneers for furniture, also timber and panelling for the building of houses.

Meshed Rugs: Persian rugs usually incorporating a large central medallion and floral designs; red, blue and white are the principal colours supported by yellows and greens; multistriped (as many as eight) border; Senna knot usually.

Mezza-Maiolica: A misnomer (the term means half-maiolica) sometimes applied to lead-glazed earthenware decorated in the sgraf, fito (q.v.) technique.

Mikawachi: Japanese ceramics factory which made porcelain of fine quality from the middle of the eighteenth century.

Millefiori (Italian='a thousand flowers'): The term applies to a technique of Roman glass mosaic in which bundles of slender glass rods of varied colours were fused together in a cylinder which was drawn out while still plastic and afterwards cut into transverse sections. The process was revived by Venetian glassmakers in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and again in France and England in the nineteenth century. See Paperweight.

Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644): See Chinese.

Minton: The factory founded by Thomas Minton in 1796. At first pottery only was made but soft-paste porcelain was produced probably as early as 1798. In 1817 Minton took his sons into the business and the firm traded as Thomas Minton & Sons. The father died in 1836 and John Boyle entered the firm which then became known as Minton & Boyle until 1845 brought a new partner, Michael Hollins, and a new style, Minton Hollins & Co. In 1883 the present style of Mintons Ltd was adopted.

Porcelain was not produced in any great quantity at Minton in its early years, but about 1825 several Derby artists took employment with the firm and output-and quality-increased. Sevres provided a recurring inspiration which extended to the marking of many pieces. Parian ware was a noted product from about 1845; and Marc-Louis Solon, who had been with S6vres, introduced the celebrated pate-sur pate technique. It is generally agreed that Minton made some of the best porcelain produced in England during the Victorian period-and indeed they still produce porcelain of fine quality.

Marks: include the letter 'M', the Sevres-like mark, the name 'Minton' impressed or transfer-printed.

Miquelet Lock: An early form of flintlock (q.v.) developed in Spain perhaps as early as 1587.

Mirrors: In ancient China and in classical antiquity mirrors were of polished metal. This was still generally so in the Middle Ages in Europe, for, though the method of backing glass with a metallic substance to make it reflect was known, the imperfections and distortions due to impurities in the glass ruled out a satisfactory reflection. Hand mirrors of gold, silver or bronze, enriched with precious stones, were the treasured possessions of the very wealthy in medieval times. By the fifteenth century mirrors were usually of steel or crystal. Venetian glass-makers claimed to have perfected glass mirrors in 1507; this was a monopoly they held for a long time but by the early seventeenth century craftsmen from Murano (near Venice) were coming to England to instruct the natives in the making of looking-glass plates. By the 1620's Sir Robert Mansell (see Glass) had got the English glass-making industry on a sound footing, mirrors were being made in considerable quantities, and hanging mirrors began to play a part in the decorative domestic scheme of things. A considerable manufacture was set up at Vauxhall c. 1665.

During these early years mirrors were made from blown cylinders of glass that were slit open, flattened and polished, and the backs silvered with tin and mercury. It is worth remembering that in the 1670's a 'large' mirror would not be more than three feet in length. By the 1680's the English were claiming they made the best mirrors in the world; by the beginning of the eighteenth century foreigners were beginning to agree. The relatively low cost of the English product during the first half of the eighteenth century was a factor that amazed the visitor.

Many materials were used for frames from the last quarter of the seventeenth century: various soft woods that lent themselves to carvings, veneers of walnut, laburnum and olive wood, marquetry, japanned woods, tortoiseshell, ivory, silver. Most mirrors were square or squarish till the end of the seventeenth century when the taste for tall mirrors- came in. This greater height meant the use of two or more plates of glass. The arched crest became popular. Overmantel mirrors grew larger and larger. The pier glass (tall and narrow to occupy the space between windows) came in at the beginning of the eighteenth century and was usually of carved wood gilt, decorated in gesso. The architectural style of mirror dates from about 1725 and remained in vogue until the straight line gave way to the curve in the 1740's. Thereafter (until the classical revival) the frame-maker could give full expression to his virtuosity, whether in the rococo, the Gothic or the Chinese styles. The classical influence of Adam made itself felt in the 1760's and was dominant till the end of the century.

The circular convex mirror became popular in England about 1800 (they had been made much earlier in France, whence the fashion came).

Modillion: Series of projecting brackets below the cornice or in the pediment-as found on eighteenth-century furniture designed in the architectural manner.

Mohair: Strictly, a fine camlet made from the hair of the Angora goat; but the term was used in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to denote a kind of silk used for upholstery and hangings.

Mongol or Yaan Dynasty (A.D. 1279-1368): See Chinese.

Monks' Bench: Combined table, settle and chest.

Monopodium: Solid three- or four-sided table pedestal, often mounted on feet, popular during the Regency.

Monstrance: Vessel, often of silver or gold and richly decorated, in which the Host is exposed.

Monteith: Punch bowl with scalloped rim which is frequently removable.

Moore, James: Cabinet-maker who from 1714 to 1726 (the year of his death) was in partnership with John Gumley. Moore was presumably proud of his gilt gesso furniture for he incised his name on some pieces (there are examples at Hampton Court). He was employed at Blenheim by the Duchess of Marlborough and supplied furniture to William Kent's designs for Kensington Palace.

Moorfields Carpets: The most esteemed of early English carpets, as made by Thomas Moore at Moorfields, London, from about 1760. Loosely knotted (about twenty to the square inch) in the Turkish manner, Moore's carpets were commissioned by Robert Adam (q.v.) and wealthy owners of grand houses of that time. They are very scarce and very expensive.

Mortar: A vessel (for use with a pestle) that was made from very early times when they were usually of stone. Bronze was the normal metal used from the Middle Ages. Examples from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are quite common; they were not made much after the middle of the eighteenth century.

Mortise and Tenon: The mortise is the receptacle, the cavity, which should be an exact fit to take the tenon or tongue. With dovetailing (q.v.) this is the joiner's favoured joint in furnituremaking. Dates from the sixteenth century.

Mortise Lock: See Locks.

Mosaic Glass: Opaque ware, of dark purple and white swirled appearance. Also known as 'purple marble glass'.

Mother-of-pearl: A substance forming the inner layer of some shells. It was probably first used in the East as a decorative inlay. It became popular in Restoration England for the ornament of furniture when it was used in conjunction with bone and ivory. In the second half of the eighteenth century it was used freely on boxes and tea-caddies and in the nineteenth century on trays. It was also used in English Boulle work.

Moulded Pedestal Stem: See Silesian Stem.

Mouldings: As separate members, strips of different patterns and shapes used to surround panels, etc. ; in the solid, the shaped decoration given to an edge of a cornice, a lid, etc.

Mounts: Furniture. Metal mounts to protect weak or vulnerable parts of furniture probably had their origin in ancient times but the French furniture-makers, or more correctly the fondeurs-doreurs, of the Louis XIV period developed the decorative mount of ormolu. Ceramics. Silver-mounted examples of Chinese porcelain are known from the fifteenth century onwards, and from the seventeenth century onwards European pottery was sometimes mounted in silver or pewter. Ormolu mounting for porcelain was introduced during the eighteenth century. As only the finest wares would be considered worth mounting such specimens are expensive as a rule.

Moustiers: An important French faience manufacturing centre from about 1769, at which date the Clerissy factory was founded. Other factories were established in the area later, but none achieved the high standard or success of the Clerissy family. Pictorial painted decoration in monochrome blue is notable.

Movement: The machinery, the 'works', of a clock or watch.

Mudjar Rugs: Brilliantly tinted and often containing as many as ten colours, with characteristic main stripe of border made up of squares round diamonds with roses within, like tessellated tiles. Red selvage. Forty-five to sixty-five knots to square inch.

Muntin: Upright between panels.

Murano: Island near Venice to which the glass-houses of that city were transferred in the thirteenth century owing to the danger of fire. Venetian glass is often called Murano glass.

Murrhine or Murrine: Early mosaic ware from the East which found, in the form of bowls and cups, much favour with the Romans; thought to have been made of precious or semiprecious stones, but perhaps of coloured glass.

Musket: Heavy firearm (14-20 1b.) which probably originated in Spain, whence it was introduced into the Netherlands and then into France and England (by the end of the sixteenth century). Out of favour by 1650, but the term has remained to describe any portable long-arm gun.