Maladie de porcelaine
The Dresden Porcelain Collection
Today, we all know the ingredients to make porcelain clay: two quarters of kaolin and one quarter each of feldspar & quartz. But the Chinese, who invented porcelain 1,000 years ago, didn’t follow a recipe: they just took earth from the ground, which happened to be of the right composition. Only the Dutch & English had access to china through their East India Companies, and rulers elsewhere in Europe sought ways to unearth the secret to making porcelain themselves. The first to succeed was Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony & lifelong sufferer from maladie de porcelaine, when on 15 January 1708, after much experimentation, Johann Friedrich Böttger, an alchemist in his custody, discovered the recipe. As a result, Europe’s first porcelain manufactory started production two years later, in 1710, at Albrechtsburg Castle in Meissen.
Of the 35,798 porcelain artefacts that Augustus amassed, the most stunning & rare are to be found in the Porcelain Collection at the Zwinger in Dresden. It’s the most exquisite ceramics collection in the world, not least on account of the outstanding holdings of early Meissen porcelain as well as porcelain from China & Japan dating from the 17th & early 18th centuries. Highlights include blue & white china from the Ming & Qing dynasties, especially the eighteen large ‘dragoon vases’ acquired by Augustus in 1717 from the King in Prussia in exchange for a regiment of 600 soldiers, and the porcelain aviary & menagerie from his own manufactory. Our children loved the many colourful birds, such as the owl, hoopoe & parakeet, and above all the rhinoceros that was modelled after the well-known 16th-century woodcut by Albrecht Dürer.porzellansammlung.skd.museum