Since the early 13th century, the European courts had been importing porcelain from China at exorbitant prices. Early in the 18th century, at the behest of August the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, joint investigations were conducted by Johann Friedrich Bottger, Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus, Freiberg Mining Counsellor Gottfried Pabst von Ohain and other mining and smelting experts with a view to cracking the secret of how porcelain is made. Their work was rewarded in 1708 when the team led by Johann Friedrich Bottger first managed to create the white porcelain - The First Porcelain in Europe was born.
History of the Meissen Porcelain Manufactory
23.01.1710 Proclamation by the Saxon Court Chancellery in a "supreme decree" in Latin, French, German and Dutch of the invention of porcelain and the founding of a porcelain manufactory
06.06.1710 Founding of the Porzellan-Manufaktur Meissen in the Albrechtsburg hill fort at Meiben
as of 1722 Adoption of the "crossed swords" mark
since 1739 Onion pattern decor continuously produced
1861 to 1864 Construction of present facility in Meissen's Triebischtal valley
1912-1915/1916 Building of Porcelain Museum/Opening of the "Schauhalle"
1960 Reopening of Exhibition Hall to mark Manufactory's 250th anniversary
since 26 June 1991 Staatliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Meissen GmbH
(shareholder: Federal State of Saxony)
1991/92 Comprehensive renovation of Porcelain Museum
1996 300 anniversary of Johann Gregorius Horoldt
01.06.1998 Founding of "Friends of Meissen Porcelain" Club at the Staatliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Meissen GmbH
01.06.1999 Inauguration of "Painting&Creativity Seminars" for enthusiasts
2000 Worldwide first organ with sounding porcelain pipes
22 June 2005 Porcelain Museum extension opened
2006 300 anniversary of Johann Joachim Kaendler
2007 Third centenary of Bottgersteinzeug
Since 1722 the swords of the Saxonian arms have been used to mark the Meissen Porcelain. Therefore the "Crossed blue swords" are one of the oldest known trademarks. For more than 275 years it has been used constantly with only little variations.
From former times there exist other trademarks like AR (Augustus Rex), K.P.M. (Konigliche Porzellan Manufaktur) or M.P.M. (Meissener Porzellan Manufaktur). The trademarks are painted by hand on the article with the cobalt blue colour after the first firing. They are protected by the glaze and the second firing.
275 Years under the sign of the "Crossed Blue Swords"
The year of 1997 was celebrated at the Staatliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Meissen with a very special slogan: "275 Years under the Sign of the Blue Swords".
On the 8th of November 1722, the inspector of the manufactory, Johann Melchior Steinbuck (1673-1723), came up with a very interesting proposal. He suggested that a symbol from the Electoral coat of arms of Saxony, such as the Electoral Swords, be used to distinguish Meissen porcelain from other manufacturers. This recommendation can be regarded as the birth certificate of one of the worlds oldest trademarks. Attempts to place a distinguishing mark on the Meissen porcelain were made as early as the first years after the establishment of the Meissen manufactory in 1710. For example, the monogram AR. (Augustus Rex) was used on porcelain delivered to the electoral-royal court.
For almost 300 years, this trademark has guaranteed the extraordinary quality of Meissen porcelain, the first in Europe
A name which says everything, about which much can be said. A concept with which we have associated exclusivity, style and flawless form - for centuries. The porcelain with the crossed blue swords on a white background has become the symbol of luxurious savoirvivre.
When Augustus II the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland (1670 - 1733) protected the - unsuccessful - goldsmith Johann Friedrich Boettger from the Prussians pursuing him, the extraordinary story of Meissen porcelain began. The protection of the passionate collector of Chinese and Japanese porcelain, the encounter of Boettger with the scholar Tschirnhaus and also the artistic influence of the form designer J. J. Kaendler and the painter J. J. Hoeroldt in the first half of the 18th century formed the unique constellation which led to what is considered the birth of European porcelain-making. The mingling of know-how, experience and passion for the "material" known as porcelain has defined the character of Meissen's porcelain over the centuries to the present day.
Ever since Meissen began manufacturing porcelain, quality has been the foremost priority. This has not changed to this day. It is hard to imagine that the Meissen patterns with their delicate execution could have been achieved in any other way but by hand. Therefore every customer can be certain that each piece is unique. Differences in details, usually hardly noticeable, elicit the aura of authenticity and uniqueness for the connoisseur, a special aura that has made Meissen famous throughout the world.
The painter of porcelain uses ceramic paints which are made durable in the firing process. Actually, the paints are colored glass which is melted over or under the glaze. The decoration is thus permanently fused into the object. This peculiarity forces the porcelain painter into a very special way of painting which requires practice, skill, diligence, and experience. Porcelain painting involves artistic talent but is considered a handicraft. Over the centuries several specialties have evolved; in general, a distinction is made between painting over or under the glaze.
After the first firing the material has become hard but is still brittle and moisture absorbing. Only paints which can withstand the high temperatures of the glazing kiln can be painted on this type of surface. The peculiarity of painting under the glaze lies in the technique, its mostly monotone execution, and its durability. The latter stems from the fact that the paint lies under the glaze and is firmly bonded to the porcelain.
The absorbent surface has to be painted with great skill because a wrong stroke of the brush is difficult to correct. The paint represents a liquid paste that has been thinned with water and a syruplike agent. It is thinned further with water to make it suitable for application with a brush. The painter can vary the effect of the paint by adjusting its consistency.
The painter's brushes are somewhat stiffer than when painting on top of the glaze, since the rough porcelain surface wears them down faster.
Probably the best known underglaze decoration is the "Onion Pattern".
Over-glaze Decorating - East Indian Decoration
The oldet Meissen decorations are of the East Indian type made from East Asian examples. Over the years these decorations have succumbed to European designs.
East Indian decorations are stylized, sectionalized paintings. Pictures of animals, flowers, and landscapes are presented in strictly linear and decorative forms. Every motif is precisely delineated in its arrangement and color composition. The division of these standardized scenes is accomplished by means of a handcut metal template, over which charcoal dust is powdered. This provides reference points to the painter, subsequently enabling him to paint the predeterminded decoration freehand.
Porcelain paint has to be mixed with turpentine and painter's oil before it can be applied. This is done on a glass pallet. With the help of a spatula the paint (in powder form) is mixed with oil to a consistency that can be applied by brush. This apparently simple procedure already determines the success or failure of the painting process because the paint must have a certain consistency, otherwise it produces streaks (too dry) or remains sticky to long (too much oil). There also lurks the danger that the various layers of paint may dissolve each other.
After the paint has been brought to the right consistency, the painter draws the outline of the decoration onto the porcelain with a steel pen. Flowers, leaves, mystic animals, etc. take form under his skilled hands. Once the drawing has dried well, areas of emphasis and paint layers can be applied. These provide accents in the decor and determine the color scheme.
The painter of East Indian decorations has a selection of 160 colors at his disposal, some of which can again be intermixed with others. This provides him with a nearly unlimited choice of colors. Of course, he must be familiar with the mixtures and make sure that the piece he is working on will be in exact conformance with the original pattern. Copper colors are used quite frequently. Aside from their brillance they have an important quality: They are transparent, somewhat like glass. Thus a drawing that has been covered with copper paints will become visible after firing.
Copper colors, however, have charactristics that bring complications for the painter because they produce stresses after the glaze is fired. To achieve the full brillance of its color, a certain thickness of the paint is required which the painter has to apply in very thin layers, one on top of the other. If he fails to do this properly, the feared hairline cracks will appear after the firing, covering the painted area like a net or even causing the paint to flake off..
The number of East Indian decorations is quite large. There is a multitude of patterns and samples centrally administered and monitored which assist the individual painter to paint in conformance to the original. To appreciate and master all this takes years of practice and experience. Those who have mastered the art are entrusted with the most difficult execution, e. g. decoration of the socalled "royal vases". The prototypes of these vases were made at the beginning of the 18th century for the court of the Prince Elector of Saxony after old East Asian originals.
The outline of East Indian motives is drawn on these vases and their lids with a brush, not with a steel pen. Diverse colors of the drawing and a lively execution of the lines make for particularly fine and interesting pictures. Copper colors, whose nuances are achieved by very special mixtures, are used for all specimens. These vases are painted in a special fixture which holds these in a firm position and provides a board on which the painter may rest his arm.
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