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Inspired by the modern movement in French decorative art, potters have made glistening-glaze objects, strange, amusing and colorful. Based on nature, perhaps, when translated into these little pottery statuettes they appear oddly remote from reality. Quaintly designed dancers, with all their original lines of grace exaggerated, are some of the creations in which these miniature figures appear. Others are of grotesque dogs, snub of nose and spotted more brilliantly than any canine ever was in life. Silky synthetic cats, their characteristic heads and posed bodies given piquancy, may now adorn a desk or, on an occasional table, add a point of interest to a corner of a room.
For those who prefer beauty more suggestive of reality and less of abstract decoration there are in porcelain and pottery delightful figurines with beautiful romantic cos tumes in varied hues. This vogue for the odd or amusing or graceful bit of ceramic ware has brought in its train, among other forms, a renewed popularity for the little figures known as Dresden china. In many designs these tiny replicas of posed life, although named from the German porcelain first made in 1709, come from other places than the suburbs of Dresden. Chelsea, Derby and Bow figures, to mention but a few, were all suggested by the Dresden statuettes.
The Dresden figures were one of the first forms in which the newly discovered European porcelain appeared. They were first made in the small town of Meissen, near Dresden, and the man who discovered how to make this ware was driven to do so because he had failed in finding the "philosopher's stone" by which gold could be made from base materials.
This picturesque individual, Johann Friedrich Bottger, had hoodwinked Augustus II, King of Saxony, with the possibility of getting rich quickly. To avoid the unpleasant ness that would occur when he would have to confess that his ability as an alchemist was not up to his confident assertions, Bottger turned his talents, which apparently were considerable, along more practical lines. To imitate the porcelain of China had for hundreds of years intrigued the Occidental world and had inspired numberless persons to try to discover its secret. Bottger decided that this problem should be easy for an alchemist, and forthwith went to work in earnest and eventually produced the first porcelain made in Europe.
Some years later from those works at Meissen there began to appear the first of the long line of delightful figurines. Not only are the groups of sophisticated ladies in crinoline skirts and Parisian hats still being produced, but figures dressed more in the modern mode have been added, and under the influence of the times greater realism in form and costume has appeared.
These figures of pottery and porcelain, whether in a modern style or suggestive of graceful costumes of the past, owe their popularity partly to the fact that every room needs a frivolous touch here and there. Such trifles often overcome the sometimes staid or ponderous effects of a too perfect or professional scheme of color and furnishings.