Time Dances By
--Last Updated: 10/23/2001 --
MORE THAN YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT DRESDEN CHINA
Pieces of porcelain have been found in China dating back as early as 900AD
with porcelain production starting in China by the 13th Century. China and
Japan held a monopoly on the making of fine porcelain for centuries and
sold it to Europeans for outrageously high prices. Then, in the early 18th
Century, came Augustus the Strong of Saxony who enjoyed living the high
life and owning fine items such as porcelain. Unfortunately, he was always
short of funds and was constantly searching for new ways to raise money.
It is because of this that he probably saved a bright, young apothecary's
journeyman, Johann Friedrich Bottger. Bottger had promised the King
of Prussia that he could make gold from lead (which was the apothecary's
trade) and when Bottger couldn't produce, he was to be hanged. Of
course, Bottger also promised the same thing to Augustus and because
Bottger could never carry out this promise, he was held a virtual prisoner
by Augustus for 13 years. He failed to produce gold but he did discover
how to make fine, hard paste porcelain around 1709 from the white clay, or
kaolin, generously found in Saxony. Thus was born the famous Meissen
Porcelain Manufactory opening in 1910.
Meissen porcelain first appeared on the open market in 1715 and was immediately collected by the English. Though made and decorated in Meissen, it was sold from the major city of Dresden, 25 km away. The English called it "Dresden China" from the very start and up through the mid-1800's "Dresden" was synonymous with "Meissen". In 1756 and 1758 the porcelain manufactory in Derby, England, advertised their porcelain figures as being "the closest to Dresden" or "second Dresden". From England, the term "Dresden Porcelain" or "Dresden China" immigrated to the colonies in North America and became a household name. Meissen had no legal claim on the term "Dresden" and starting in the mid-1800's other porcelain makers began calling their porcelain - "Dresden" - and even used trademarks very similar to the famous crossed swords of Meissen. The porcelain literature over the years has reinforced the use of the term "Dresden" as a general term for good hard paste porcelain.
The bulk of "Dresden China" did come from porcelain decorators in and around Dresden or at least that area of Germany. Much of the Dresden porcelain was finely made and decorated by first class artists - rivaling those at Meissen. Unfortunately, others were just out to make a quick buck. There was nothing to keep them from using exact copies of Meissen figures. Between 1855 and 1944 more than 200 names of porcelain painting shops were listed in Dresden directories alone. Research into what was made by whom is very difficult. Most of the records were destroyed by the Allied bombing of Dresden on Feb. 13 and 14, 1945. The porcelain industry in that area never fully recovered.
My information about Dresden China comes from the internet and The Book of Meissen by Robert E. Rontgen (Shiffer Publishing Limited, Exton, PA 1984). My interest in Dresden is purely in Dresden Pugs. I certainly don't pretend to be particularly knowledgeable about Dresden China, but I do enjoy the research and I do like to know about the pugs I own and those I'd like to own. I have several "Dresden" or "Dresden-like" pugs. I do know the typical appearance. The largest (9" - 10") are the mothers and suckling babies. The mothers are sitting with one front paw raised and looking away from the raised paw. The single pugs (usually 7" - 8") are also sitting, but some have both paws down and some have one raised. They, too, have their heads turned to one side. The ears are cropped, tails curled once, legs and muzzles longer than today's pugs. Their faces are painted tan or grey and the better ones show individual hairs depicted. The eyes are usually striking. I've seen dark green, dark blue, brown and light grey with multiple radiating lines indicating the iris. The porcelain may or may not have subtle patches of raised areas suggesting hair on their body or legs. They are mostly white with grey or tan spots over their bodies - very different from the fawn and black pugs of today. These pugs are like the early ones brought from China prior to the 18th Century. Some have collars with or without bells - often gold. The general look is similar to the Meissen Pugs, but the ones I've seen are easily differentiated.
I own ones from the Carl Thieme factory in Potschappel, now incorporated into Dresden, and from the Rudolph Kammer factory in Volkstedt, Germany. All of these are of very high quality with beautiful hand painting. No two are exactly alike. I also own 2 in the same pose and general appearance and hand painted, but they are made in Italy and a step down in overall quality, though still quite nice. I have seen some for sale or on E-bay auctions that had trademarks I did not recognize, trademarks too feint to see well and some with no trademarks. These latter two are often erroneously called Meissens. DON'T BE FOOLED. Their is much I don't know. I'd be happy to share knowledge with any of you. I know if you have read this far and not fallen asleep, you must be interested in Dresden Pugs.
- contact me at email@example.com -
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