Ware, George W.
Porcelain, old and new, pp. 29-35 PDF (3.9 MB)
Meissen. Flower bowl after Sulkowsky model, 1735-1737. (Courtesy, G. Ryland Scott, Memphis, Tenn.) Porcelain, Old and New By GEORGE W. WARE Chief, Vocational Education Section, Education and Cultural Relations Division Office of Public Affairs, HICOG PORCELAIN, THE MAGIC WORD that puts a gleam of acquisition in the eyes of almost every American in Gcmany, was accidentally discovered at Meissen in 1709 by Johann Friedrich Boettcher, a young alchemist who was seeking a method to produce gold for his avaricious master, King August the Strong of Saxony. Prior to Boettcher's accidental discovery, the secret of making porcelain, known to the Chinese almost 1,000 years earlier and perfected by them in the 15th and 16th centuries, had eluded the western artisans despite re- pea ted attempts to solve this mystery. Since his discovery, Germany has become the home of the European true or hard-paste porcelain industry and today German porcelain is universally admired and col- lected by persons of all races and circumstances. It ap- pears in countless forms-from great chandeliers to miniature buttons, from magnificent table services to humble ashtrays, from life-size statues to small, artistic figur ines. The development of porcelain has captured the fancy of nobles and commoners throughout the centuries. Thnere, harl beehn a lsne search throughout the western world for food and liquid containers which were low heat conductors, easy to cle-an,nonpo- rous and free from the taint imparted to food by earthenware and metal ves- sels. Porcelain satisfied all these re- quii ements.Therei6littlewonder,there- fore, that porcelain was hailed with great enthusiasm in western Europe. It was referred to as "white gold" and was considered a semi-precious ma- In addition t George W. Wa companying ai collector and at time he has I illustrated boo Austrian Porce plete text on by an Americ published in English later tl o his re, au rticle, bthori orepai ok on :lain," this s ,an, , both his Sul terial upon which the master modelers and decorators could exploit their talents for the benefit of the noble and rich. YING AUGUST THE STRONG was an ardent lover of Kporcelain and like many other rulers of that day he had almost bankrupted his kingdom through the acquisi- tion of Oriental porcelain (china). Boettcher's discovery at Meissen resulted in the establishment of the royal Meissen factory, which he managed until his death in 1719. Now, with his own factory, the king seized the op- portunity to enhance his prestige and replenish his treas- ury. He determined to keep his prize a secret and every precaution was taken to prevent the secret from falling into the hands of others interested in opening competitive factories. The Meissen employees were sworn to "secrecy to the death," and deaf and dumb workers are reputed to have been employed and held in virtual confinement to prevent the secret from escaping the walls of the factory. Threats, bribery, alcohol, seduction and other devices were used to obtain the magic formula. Although con- HICOG duties, thor of the ac- is a porcelain ty. In his spare red a 250-page "German and the first com- subject written which will be German and nmer. secret escaped and Samuel Stoelzel, a former Meissen workman, founded a factory at Vienna in 1718. A number of other factories were established in Germany and neighboring countries during the middle of the century with the aid of porcelain artisans who sold the secrets. Porcelain production soon became the vogue, and every prince aspired to own a factory. As porcelain was JUNE 1 9 5 1 2 9 INFORMATION BULLETIN JUNE 1951 29
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