The Meissen Company was founded in early C18th and delivered porcelain of the quality and purity that made that small town famous.
Dresden scenes on Leuteritz vases, 1870, Meissen (Country Life photo)
From 1720 on, the fame of Meissen depended largely on the painter Johann Gregorius Höroldt (1696-1775). It seems impossible to overstate Höroldt’s influence on much of Europe’s developing porcelain makers. He used Chinese exoticism, European landscapes and naturalistic birds and flowers, sublimely painted.
Meissen also had the sculptor Johann Joachim Kändler (1706-1775). Kändler was appointed court sculptor by Augustus II the Strong in 1731. He was responsible for the introduction of new forms for porcelain sets, including a wide range of figurines.
Wealthy families couldn’t buy up Meissen porcelain fast enough. And rival companies couldn’t get Meissen’s secrets fast enough, to develop their own porcelain lines. Naturally Meissen became a symbol of wealth and status, and in the 19th century the factory earned both Royal commissions and medals at the various World Exhibitions.
Leuteritz vase, 1880, Meissen, based on a painting by Caspar Netscher. 69 cm high
I have some good 19th century Meissen pieces in my own collection, which I thought were rather lovely. Then I saw a pair of Meissen vases, dating from about 1870, in David Brower Antiques. I am quoting them. Born in 1818, Ernst Leuteritz joined the factory in 1836 as an apprentice and by 1843 he was engaged as a modeller. This impressive pair of topographical vases was created by Leuteritz and are one of the most important and valuable works of 19th century Meissen porcelain available on the market today. Standing at 61cms high and produced in 1870, the vases show two different scenes of Dresden rendered in exquisite detail, a view of Pilnitz and a view of Schloss Weesenstein. Leuteritz first created the design for these vases in 1856, and in 1862 they were selected as one of the key pieces at the World Exhibition held in London.
Vases of this scale and detail are rare as they were only made for exhibition or special commission. One reason is because large objects of this nature (61 cm high) were very difficult to make and decorate. Minor imperfections in the structure of the piece or faults in the decoration and glaze were unforgiving, often causing failure during the firing processes. These monumental pieces are a testament to the experience and skills of the Meissen craftsmen.
Scene of Wesenstein, Meissen reticulated plate c1879
Another lovely, tall Meissen vase was created by Ernst Leuteritz, this time exquisitely painted with Dutch-style images from the C17th. The 1880 vase was decorated on a cobalt blue ground, heightened by detailed gilded scroll work and embellishments. The panel on the front was based on a painting by Caspar Netscher (1639–1684) while the reverse was based on a painting by Gabriel Metsu (1629–1667) which depicts the artist with his wife Isabella DeWolff in a tavern.
Far easier, for both the porcelain maker and the artist, were smaller flat plates that rarely broke in the kiln. Christies had a reticulated Meissen plate from c1879, painted with a view of Wesenstein inside a gilt scroll cartouche. The dark-blue-ground well gilt had scrolls suspending swags of flowers and the border was pierced with trellis pattern sections between panels of flowers, moulded with flowerheads. The scene was beautifully painted, but I have to admit that the entire plate was only 25 cm wide.
Meissen, 22 piece coffee set with individual landscape paintings, c1880
The Arcanum: The Extraordinary True Story is a super little book, written by Janet Gleeson and published by Little, Brown and Co. in 1999. It tells the convoluted story of the invention of European porcelain and the founding of the Meissen Porcelain Company.