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Oriental China - The Dresden Collection

( Originally Published 1911 )

THE Dresden Collection of porcelain is probably the most ancient in Europe as far as the Oriental portion is concerned. According to its learned Director, Dr. Theodore Graesse, it was chiefly brought together by Augustus the Strong, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, between the years 1694-1705. These specimens were afterwards made use of to decorate the Dutch, or, as it was subsequently called, the Japanese, Palace. After being for many years stored away in the vaults of the Palace, they have now been set out in the Johanneum Palace, where they are well seen.

In order, it is said, to prevent the courtiers from making away with the royal property, every specimen in the old collection was marked with numbers, accompanied by various signs, engraved through the glaze on the lathe, and therefore indelible. To avoid high numbers and to facilitate classification, a particular sign was used for each kind of porcelain. These marks must have been put on at an early date, as they are only to be found on the more ancient specimens of Meissen porcelain in the collection at Dresden.

The classes and marks were as follows :

Japanese porcelain, distinguished by the addition of a cross to the number.

"Green Chinese porcelain" (that is, principally painted in green enamel), marked by an I.

White Chinese porcelain, marked with a triangle.

"Red Chinese porcelain " (that is, principally decorated in red), marked with an arrow.

Blue and white " Indian porcelain " (chiefly Chinese blue and white), including crackle, marked with a zig-zag line. See symbolical mark 31.

" Old Indian porcelain," marked with a parallelogram.

" Indian and Saxon black porcelain," marked with a P.

The cross mark is of value as showing the opinion entertained in Europe at so early a time as to what was Japanese, but must of course be accepted with some reserve. It may be added that nearly all the Japanese specimens are what we know as " Old Japan," made in Imari for exportation. The triangle is useful to help us in distinguishing white Oriental from early Dresden, Fulham, or Plymouth porcelain, which were close copies of the first. The most curious specimens are those marked with a parallelogram, and are called Old Indian. Many of these appear to be Oriental porcelain, originally white, and decorated in Europe, probably in Holland. The same style of painting is to be found on five vases bearing the arms and initials of Augustus the Strong, said to have been ordered for the King by the Dutch in 1703, but probably executed in Holland. These vases seem to be Chinese porcelain with ornaments in very low relief, over which the arms have been painted, together with a decoration in the Japanese style.

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