Gilded in Augsburg and originally produced in Böttger stoneware, this teapot is one of Meissen’s iconic masterpieces. The Renaissance clock depicted on one side of this teapot was possibly modeled from one made by Augsburg’s great clockmaker Hans J. Buschmann. In the 1650s, the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III (r. 1637–57) commissioned Buschmann to make the clock for the first Ching Emperor of China.
Pair of candlesticks from the Swan Servicec. 1739
The Swan Service was originally made for Count Heinrich von Brühl (1700–63), the Prime Minister of Saxony and director of the Meissen Manufactory from 1733 to 1763. Brühl received the dinnerware, which was designed for one hundred guests and included 2,000 pieces, complimentary from the king. More than a mere gift, the Swan Service signified Brühl's status as Prime Minister to Augustus III and was used by the count when entertaining dignitaries in the absence of his majesty.
The manufactory's renowned sculptor, Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706–75), conceptualized the dinner service. Its central design motif embodies the sea. Kaendler spent time making drawings of shells in the natural history collection of the royal palace. Floating swans, herons, fish, shells, and reeds of grass grace the porcelain in relief, and each item is painted with Brühl's family coat of arms. The service's most remarkable feature is its feet, handles, and spouts, which take the shape of shells, dolphins, and other creatures. Taking seven years to complete (1736–42), the Swan Service truly epitomizes the playful, extravagant nature of the rococo style.
Dish from the Swan Service with arms of Brühl and Kolowrat-Krakowskac. 1738-39
The Swan Service remained with the Brühl family until World War II. After the war, when the Soviets invaded Poland, much of the service was pilfered from the palace and sold to private collectors and museums outside of the country.
This grand baluster vase—one of Meissen's great masterpieces—is comparable in importance to the best blue-and-white creations of the Yuan and early Ming period. It is based upon a classic Chinese baluster shape (yenyen), which dates to the Song period. The decoration is most likely by Johann Caspar Ripp, who came to Meissen in 1721, as an experienced painter of German faience (earthenware).
Sake bottlec. 1730
Japanese Palace Inventory Number N=291-/W
Some of the imported Chinese and Japanese porcelains that provided inspiration to the painters at Meissen were painted with solid background colors such as brown, yellow, and blue. Similar wares made at Meissen were sometimes painted overall, although most items were left with reserves of white porcelain upon which artists painted various scenes. The decoration on this exquisite bottle, although inspired by Kakiemon porcelain, remains uniquely Meissen.
This teapot, sometimes referred to as "grotesque" or Wassermann, is arguably one of the most dramatic and daring creations produced during the time of Böttger. Its inspiration derives from engravings in Livre de Vases (Paris, 1667) compiled by the designer Jacques Stella (1596–1657).
China, Kangxi period (1662–1722)
hard-paste porcelain, glaze
This type of brown-glazed Chinese export porcelain is commonly called Batavian ware. A Saxon, most likely from Dresden, who had experience engraving glass, made the engraving on this Chinese bowl. The relatively few Chinese porcelains from Augustus the Strong's collections with such engravings remain in Dresden.
Today, most people would have a hard time imagining life without a morning cup of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate; but life was devoid of these beverages in early seventeenth-century Europe. The coffee plant was introduced to Yemen from Ethiopia sometime during the sixth century. During the mid-1500s, coffee drinking reached as far as Constantinople (Istanbul). Turkish coffee found its way into Western Europe in the second half of the 1600s. Initially, coffee, like tea, was only consumed by the upper classes. By the mid-1700s its consumption spread, and around 33,000 tons of coffee was imported into Europe.
This ewer, customarily called a kendi, originally employed as a vessel for holding liquids in Asia, was used by Europeans as an ornamental display piece. This kendi or ewer was copied from a Chinese model.
China, Kangxi Period (1662–1722)
Yixing red stoneware
A kendi of this model remains in Dresden's Porcelain Museum and served as the prototype for the Böttger red stoneware vessel shown here.
The fine painting on this marvelous tankard leads scholars to believe J. G. Höroldt created it. The vessel reflects trade relations between East and West during the great Age of Discovery. Merchants exchange exotic luxury goods such as fine silks and coral; another man holds a cache of precious gems.
Dish c. 1750
Marks: crossed swords in underglaze blue
Collection of Malcolm D. Gutter
The famous onion pattern derives from a design on early eighteenth-century Chinese porcelain intended for the European export market. Pomegranates, peaches, and peonies—Chinese symbols of fertility, longevity, and wealth—form essential components of the design. The pattern’s name derives from a misreading of the two fruits represented in the design, which many thought resembled onions.
In the 1730s and 1740s, Meissen decorators standardized the pattern and added European elements to the design. By the 1800s, it became Meissen’s stock-in-trade and was copied by countless European porcelain manufactories. Today, the Meissen factory continues to produce more than 750 wares decorated with the onion pattern.