Early Meissen porcelain figure, currently at the V&A Museum, c 1750
A Late 19th Century Neo-Classical German Porcelain Portrait Plate, Hand painted in 24K Gold
A Magnificent 19th century German porcelain candelabra in the rococo style
|The opportunities for
antique German porcelain collectibles are almost unlimited. German porcelain can be found in magnificent chandeliers to petite porcelain buttons, from antique
porcelain table services to statues and figurines, and has captured the interest of collectors for the last three centuries.
The introduction of German porcelain production into Europe was revolutionary. Since the accidental discovery at Meissen in 1709 of making porcelain and the establishment of the royal Meissen factory, Germany has become the home of the European true hard-paste porcelain industry. Antique German porcelain was not only beautiful and artistic, but far less expensive and substantially more durable than pottery, and German porcelain began to take its place over other household materials for domestic use. The versatility of
porcelain as an artistic material as well as its usefulness created great enthusiasm throughout Europe, where at the time it was referred to as "white gold" and compared by many to semi-precious stones.
Although great attempts were made to maintain the secret formula within the walls of Meissen, the secret escaped and many other German porcelain factories were established as well as porcelain factories in its neighboring countries during the mid-18th century. The period from 1720 to 1760 is considered to be Meissen's best period. All of the original major
German porcelain factories and many of the smaller factories were careful to mark the names and cities in which they were established.
Meissen: The Boettcher Period
The process of German porcelain was accidentally discovered at Meissen in 1709 by Johann Friedrich Boettcher when he was seeking a method to produce gold for his master the King of Saxony. Early German porcelain was without glaze, polished and engraved by the use of a wheel, sometimes varnished with lacquer, and then, gilted. Both red stoneware, or Boettcher ware as it is often referred, and hard paste
porcelain were first produced at Meissen. The Boettcher ware porcelain of the German Meissen factory is a rich chocolate color, usually showing oriental influences and decorated with gold and silver designs. Some collectors uphold that the pink-violet mother of pearl glaze was invented by Boettcher.
Meissen: The Hoeroldt Period
After Boettcher's death, Johann Hoeroldt, a leading artist at the time was assigned to the Meissen factory, who proved to be the most renowned German porcelain painter of all time. During his time at Meissen, he and his associate
porcelain artists painted outstanding oriental characters, chinoiseries, flowers, baroque and rococo court scenes, and landscapes.
Meissen: The Hoeroldt-Kaendler Period (1731-1756)
When Johann Kaendler was assigned to chief modeler in 1731 he soon became known throughout Europe as a Master Modeler and inspired many other artisans and antique porcelain craftsmen. The combined skills of Hoeroldt and Kaendler created an exquisite product, and antique German porcelain from this era offers the greatest quality, variety, grace and beauty with a variety of
figurines, animals, birds, dinner services, candelabras, desk sets, and various vases.
Collectors Note: The Meissen factory was only 14 miles from Dresden, and there has often been confusion among many in distinguishing between Meissen and Dresden antique porcelain, but
porcelain was not actually manufactured in Dresden even though several factories were located nearby. Dresden was the
porcelain decorating center. Large quantities of white porcelain were brought to Dresden only for decorating, marking and resaling throughout the world. The term "Dresden China" refers to any piece of antique German porcelain that was painted within the city.
Collectors Note: The second hard paste German porcelain factory was actually in Vienna, Austria, founded in 1718 by Claudius du Paquier, and was a private German enterprise until taken over by the the Austrian state in 1744.
Hoechst Porcelain (1746-1796)
In 1746, the third German porcelain factory was established. The best pieces of
porcelain from this factory were produced between 1767 and 1779 by the sculptor and modeler Johann Melchior. Melchior produced sentimental, animated figurines that included religious subjects, pastoral scenes, children, and mythological characters, generally situated on grassy mounds or moss covered rocks. His earlier
pieces exhibit the colors of pink and blue with spotted patterns, while later pieces used darker colors. Although the factory produced an array of other
porcelain wares, they were overshadowed by the fine figures of Melchoir.
This factory was established in Munich in 1747 and is particularly famous for the groups and figurines by German porcelain modeler Franz Anton Bustelli. Bustelli's best works were produced between 1754 and 1763 and include Italian comedic characters, coquettish ladies in crinoline, busts of leading personalities, peasants, Asian peoples, children, and other groups. The figures usually feature flat thin bases which rise in flowing curves creating a delicately balanced composition. This factory was a leader in American imports of antique German porcelain.
This factory was in the Castle of Furstenberg which began in 1747 by the Duke of Brunswick. Johann S. Feylner was a porcelain modeller here from 1753 to 1770, however, his work did not compare to the beauty and quality of the other German porcelain factories. This factory is best known for its
rococo and neo-classical vases produced between 1760 and 1790. Ownership was transferred to a private individual in 1876.
Wegely Porcelain (1751-1757)
Wegely operated a factory in Berlin with the support of the Prussian King, Frederick the Great, but his efforts quickly failed.
Gotzkowsky Porcelain (1761-1763)
Another attempt at a German porcelain factory that rivaled Meissen was opened in Berlin by Gotzkowsky but failed due to financial difficulties.
Frederick the Great bought Gotzkowsky's failing porcelain factory in 1763 which is known as Berlin or KPM for Koenigliche Porzellan Manufaktur. Frederick was successful in forcing Meissen artists as well as others to work in his
factory but he never achieved the success and quality of Meissen. The most popular antique porcelain wares from the Berlin factory are dinner services.
Frankenthal Porcelain (1755-1799)
The best known and highly collectible antique German pieces from the Frankenthal factory include figures and groups excellently modeled by Johann W. Lanz (1955-61), Johann Lueck (1758-1764) and Karl G. Lueck (1760-1775) and decorated in the rococo style.
Ludwigsburg Porcelain (1750-1824)
This was the last of the eight major German factories, founded by Karl Eugen in 1750. The porcelain wares here do not compare to Meissen, Nymphenburg, Frankenthal or Hoechst, but the various figures and items designed by Gottlieb Riedel during the twenty year period of 1759 to 1779 and those of Johann C. W. Beyer from 1760-1767 are extremely interesting and attractive and are sought by many antique collectors.
Other German Porcelain Makers
At least twenty if not more smaller porcelain factories were established from the mid to late 18th century. Some of these are Ansbach (1758-1860), Kelsterbach (1761-1802), Ottwieler (1763-1775), Fulda (1765-1790), Kassel (1766-1788), and Gutenbrunn (1767-1790). The most outstanding, high quality antique German porcelain wares from the smaller factories came from the Ansbach and Fulda factories. Since many of these factories were privately owned, without ties to nobililty, they were able to compete profitably with other factories, but by the time these porcelain factories emerged the novelty and demand for porcelain in general had declined, and although still of great quality, their wares are not particularly great artistically.
Some of the better known modern German factories are Sitzendorf, Rosenthal, Schumann, Hutschenreuther, and Heinrich. Leading porcelain decorating companies in Dresden include Altwasser, Passau, Selb, Rudolstadt, Plauen, and Potschappel.
Today, the antique German porcelain pieces from Meissen are unreachable in price to the average collector; most of these porcelain wares are currently housed in museums or in the hands of private collectors. Many factories continued to grow throughout Germany and Austria in the 19th and 20th centuries, still producing quality utilitarian porcelain products, and although they are not as artistic in design or as significant in a historical sense as the earlier German porcelain pieces, the modern wares continue to be of the highest quality, are very desirable, and are readily available at a more reasonable price to antique collectors and porcelain connosieurs around the