The china museum of Meissen
The word 'Meissen' suggests a highly appreciated kind of hard - paste
porcelain because the first European hard - paste porcelain factory was
founded in Meissen, a little town on the Elbe river near Dresden
(Germany). Meissen, a beautiful town with its captivating surroundings
produced the Europe's oldest Porcelain manufactory.
Near Dresden where the Triebish flows into the Elbe river, lies the
charming, more than one thousand-year-old city of Meissen. Each of the
inhabitants loves the city and the characteristic Elbe valley with its
syenite rocks and sunlit vineyards on the slopes. They pride themselves
on the numerous monuments which reflect a changing history, adhere to
the Meissnian-Saxonian coziness of the wine pubs, and swear by the dry
Dancers at Meissen porcelain museum
Their pride is mixed with sadness, however, because the buildings of
the city are threatened with fast dilapidation.
The porcelain manufactory was established on June 6, 1710 in the late
Gothic fortress of "Meissewhich in 1676 had been renamed "Albrechtsburg"
after Duke of Albert of Saxony.
This place outside the capital Dresden was selected because the huge
Albrechtburg was not inhabited then, and the area of mountains could
easily be guarded to protect the secret of Porcelain manufacture and the
wood needed for the ceramic kilns could easily be transported there on
the river Elbe.
The china museum
When the first Porcelain manufactory of Europe (Meissen Porzellan -
Manufaktur) was founded in 1710, it was fairly unthinkable to pen it to
the public: on the contrary, the factory was the object of strictest
Today the Meissen Manufactory allows every enthusiast of porcelain to
look how porcelain is made and to be informed of the house's history.
There are but a few production secrets that are still inviolable. The
china museum of the manufactory including a demonstration workshop with
four work places (established in 1960) has on average 300,000 visitors
from Germany and abroad in each season.
The museum and the workshop are open to visitors and explanation
workshop are available on tape in twenty five languages.
Between 1912 and 1915 the directors of the Meissen porcelain
manufactory had a representative building erected right on the
manufactory's territory to host part of the model collection, making it
available to the public.
At the topping-out ceremony of this building, the then director
Julius Heintze declared that the model hall "was to fulfil some purposes
in addition to the traditional tasks of a museum.
It shall make selection easier to the customer, provide the
connoisseur with an overview of the best and most beautiful pieces of
the manufactory and it shall provide an opportunity for artists to study
antique and modern patterns."
The architects created a building with an interior which includes
both large party halls and more intimate rooms so that the exhibited
model porcelains can be presented in accordance with their character.
These interior structures have been preserved up to the modern day
giving the china museum its own unmistakable character.
Today, the museum draws its exposition that changes almost every year
on the vast amount of models stored in the depot of the manufactory.
The 5000 pieces of porcelain exhibited in the museum are to
illustrate important lines of development of Meissen porcelain from 1710
to the present.
Meissen porcelain has been sold in all periods of the manufactory's
existence and important collections of Meissen have been set up in many
other cities and countries. However, these are all different from the
Meissen museum because they offer only selective insight into the
history of Meissen porcelain. The particular value of the Meissen china
museum is that it is only here that the visitor is given a relatively
complete survey of the history of Meissen porcelain from the eighteenth
century to this day. The exposition of the china museum begins with
exhibits made from fine red stone ware from the early period of the
"Porzellan manufactory" and ends with contemporary studio porcelains of
the present day.
Between these cornerstones, the items exhibited in the museum
represent nearly three centuries of porcelain design in Meissen, all
times in bloom and decline, all styles and influences of art. On the
whole, the visitor is stunned by the abundance of subjects and artistic
From today's viewpoint, these collections are extremely valuable and
even a prerequisite for the permanent work of the manufactory it self.
In each season, the permanent exposition of the museum is
supplemented by a special exposition which is usually dedicated to a
certain topic and its development through three centuries such as
hunting scenes, the change of style in table culture or the topic of
time illustrated by clock casings that are made from Meissen porcelain.
On the other hand, each year pieces of porcelain from the Meissen
museum are lent to expositions both in Germany and abroad, in countries
such as Japan, Italy, USSR or Austria. The model collection is
constantly being extended mainly by purchases from private collectors or
takeovers from the modelling departments of Meissen. The chief advantage
of the manufactory having a model collection of its own is quick access
to the models by all design departments while the main advantage is of
course the hazard during their transport within the building.
At the beginning of the Meissen manufactory porcelain design was much
oriented by the East Asian example (Indian paintings, dragon patterns,
onion patterns etc).
In the twentieth century, various artists worked for Meissen as
freelances for sometime. Among the pieces of porcelain, Hunting scens,
"Sulkowski", "Swan service", flower bouquet paintings", "New cut-out"
are prominent creations.