The Earthly Paradise blog got me thinking about porcelain when Margaret wrote about a financial crisis in the industry in Waterford and Wedgwood in Receivership. “While both Waterford and Wedgwood have existed since the C17th, the marriage of the two occurred in 1986, when Waterford purchased Wedgwood. Waterford Wedgwood PLC is now in receivership. In November I wrote about Spode's financial troubles and it now appears that Waterford/Wedgwood is going through similar difficulties”.
So which is my favourite porcelain manufacturer? From the French porcelain makers, I particularly like Darte Freres who made truly lovely objects. Founded in 1801 and active throughout the following thirty years, Darte Freres objects combined high technical quality with colouring and decoration typical of the Empire and Restoration styles. This pair of footed bulb pots displays the high quality of the painting: beautifully painted flowers.
I also love Royal Berlin, Coalport, RS Prussia and Rudolstadt, but a good piece of Royal Vienna is hard to go past.
The Imperial State Manufactory Vienna was founded in 1719 by a Dutch businessman, Claude Innocentius du Paquier, who was awarded exclusive rights to produce porcelain in Austria by Emperor Karl VI. Royal Vienna was only the second European factory, after Meissen, to produce hard-paste porcelain. The factory was best known for neo-classical figures.
When his imperial privileges expired in 1744, du Paquier sold the factory to the state. The factory continued to produce quality porcelain, with scrolls, foliage and swags of drapery. Figures were made in an appealing style; dining ware was elegant and classical. It only ceased production in 1865, largely due to competition from mass production factories.
I am not expert enough to detect an original Royal Vienna from a later version. This is because after 1864 many other small factories in Austria could use both the name Royal Vienna and the famous beehive mark under the glaze. And trickier still, several factories from other countries bought the old moulds and made reproductions.
A second problem for amateurs is that many Austrian and Bavarian firms produced both hand-painted and transfer portraits on porcelain in the late C19th-early C20th. Transfer portraits are less sought after than hand-painted pieces, but high quality transfer porcelain pieces can be difficult to detect, especially in the Royal Vienna factories.
The original Royal Vienna factory never made portrait porcelain and certainly could not have done so after 1865 (when most of this type of porcelain was produced) since it no longer existed. So most of the portraiture produced came from smaller, mainly Austrian factories, which replicated the Royal Vienna beehive mark and sold pieces as true Royal Vienna. I find some of these pieces utterly beautiful.
portrait tea set
Other companies opened up for some time, then closed or amalgamated eg Oscar and Edgar Gutherz in Altrohlau which opened in 1898 and closed in 1918. But the world had changed after WW1 ended. And so did porcelain-making
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