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January, 2004 - Nr. 1


The Editor
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Ham Se det jehört?
Treatment of Schizophrenia
Bach Festival at the UofT
At a Loss for Words
Events in Germany
Cornelia Funke
Earliest Carvings
Goodbye, Lenin!
German Porcelain Exhibited
Athletes of the Year
Links Eighth Season
World Cup 2006 in Berlin

World-class porcelain comes to Jackson, Mississippi

  TWIG - Alongside an impressive selection of paintings from Dresden’s Old Masters Gallery and several other superb collections, "The Glory of Baroque Dresden" exhibition in Jackson, Mississippi will feature pieces from the city’s famed porcelain gallery, an unparalleled collection of European and East Asian porcelain and the largest single accumulation of pieces produced at the Meissen factory in Meissen, Saxony.

A prince and his passion

Like his predecessors, August the Strong, Elector of Saxony (1694-1733), believed it was part of his royal duty to amass a universal collection of art in accordance with the ideals of the Renaissance. As a young man, his frequent visits to Austria, Italy, Spain and France laid the groundwork for his life-long interest in decorative and fine arts – a fascination which would border on obsession as Dresden grew into a center of Baroque art in the 18th century. August the Strong’s lavish court and grand architectural projects helped Dresden rise to both political and artistic prominence, establishing the city as a bustling center for central European life, his unwavering patronage of the arts making Dresden into a European center of the Baroque. Not only did the city’s grandiose architecture rise up under his direction, his unceasing passion for porcelain made Saxony into an additional landmark as the birthplace of European porcelain.

A secret revealed

The history of Meissner porcelain is the stuff of legend. In a period when the Chinese and Japanese held the secret to producing porcelain – the durable yet dainty ceramic considered at the time to be more precious than gold – August the Strong set out to discover the hidden process. For over two hundred years, Europeans had unsuccessfully played alchemist to the Japanese and Chinese porcelain masters, until Johann Friedrich Böttger unearthed the recipe to cure August the Strong of his mad obsession with "white gold" – what he called his "Porcelain Sickness."

Meissner porcelain made no modest entrance in Europe. August the Strong’s commitment to finding the secret was so steadfast that he spent innumerable sums on ceramics from the orient. When a 19-year old Böttner announced that he had discovered the secret, the prince imprisoned him, refining his experiment in a dungeon laboratory. Over the next four years, Böttner developed a formula that would set Saxony as the premier European capital of porcelain manufacturing. And while the first pieces to leave the factory reflected East Asian tastes and artistry, the Meissner artist soon developed their own inimitable style – a style that reflected the ornate drama of the Baroque period. The porcelain factory in Meissen began production of stoneware in 1710 and of porcelain in 1713.

A process perfected

Animal figurines, statuettes, table settings – there were no limits to what could be recreated with Meissner porcelain. During his reign, August the Strong acquired nearly everything created in the Meissner porcelain factory, from replicas of Japanese and Chinese ceramics to red and brown stoneware and the signature Meissner collection. Some pieces, including life size figures with realistic features, reached a level of technical mastery rarely matched by other masters. The factory remained a predominately princely venture until August the Strong’s death. The porcelain sickness, apparently, was not inheritable as patronage for the factory decreased under son August III. Soon thereafter, as royal support for the factory waned, the porcelain met the fierce demand of an open market.

Meissner porcelain at
"The Glory of Baroque Dresden" exhibition

The pieces of Meissner porcelain on exhibit in Jackson, Mississippi, very much reflect the personal taste of August the Strong. Some include his personal collection of Chinese and Japanese master figurines and vessels, such as this Hawk (photo), while many others were produced in the earliest years of the Meissner factory in Meissen, Saxony. From decorative to functional, each is made of the highest quality porcelain and has survived almost 300 years – three centuries during which the name Meissen has come to be synonymous with the highest quality European porcelain in existence. Whether found on a family’s table or in the royal collections in Dresden, the world’s fascination with "white gold" continues today.

Other major highlights of "The Glory of Baroque Dresden" exhibition include Dresden’s Old Masters Gallery, prints and drawings by Michelangelo, Correggio and many others as well as items from the silver collection. The exhibition will run from March 1, to September 6, 2004.
Republished with permission from "The Week in Germany"


The Glory of Baroque Dresden


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