Meissen: First porcelain in Europe

This Meissen porcelain figural group from the late 19th represents commerce. Topped by Mercury, the group stands 16 inches tall and 14 3/4 inches wide. It sold for $25,410 to a LiveAuctioneers bidder in February 2015. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Cottone Auctions.

This Meissen porcelain figural group from the late 19th represents commerce. Topped by Mercury, the group stands 16 inches tall and 14 3/4 inches wide. It sold for $25,410 to a LiveAuctioneers bidder in February 2015. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Cottone Auctions.

 

The Royal Saxon Porcelain Works in Meissen, Saxony (Germany) opened in 1710. Whether Johann Friedrich Böttger, its first director, deserves credit for being the first European to develop the formula for hard paste porcelain – long known in China – is open to debate. Certainly the Meissen factory was the first to produce porcelain in Europe in large quantities.

Böttger attempted to keep the process a trade secret, but competitors began to copy his wares. In 1731 Meissen adopted the famous crossed-sword logo to identify their products, but the mark itself has been widely copied by imitators.

Groups of Meissen figures are highly prized, as are candelabra, urns, clocks and large figurines. Meissen’s Blue Onion pattern tableware has been in production for close to three centuries.

When the Meissen manufactory opened, it was owned by the King of Saxony. By 1830 it came under ownership of the State of Saxony. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany, the company was restored to the State of Saxony, which is its sole owner.