Artifact Corner: Blue Meissen Vase

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. You might notice a different voice today, and that’s because our Director who normally voices these videos is sick, and sounds like a frog. Today we will be looking at a Victorian pitcher, made sometime between 1850-1900. On the bottom of the pitcher, it has a makers mark that says “Blue Meissen,” and has L S & S and the number 27 on the bottom of it. Now if the name Meissen sounds familiar, that’s because they are one of the most famous porcelain manufacturers in the world. But our little pitcher is deceiving. This is not actually made by the Meissen company based in Germany. This was made by a British manufacturer based in England. Even by the 1850’s Meissen was a huge name in porcelain, and attaching that name to a product would absolutely add to the salability of the piece. Let’s learn a bit more about Meissen, and how they became the gold standard for European porcelain.

In the 17th Century, Europeans were all enamored with Chinese porcelain, and magical properties they believed the porcelain held. It was even said that if someone tried to poison food held in a Chinese porcelain dish, the dish would break into pieces. The first European porcelain was manufactured in Meissen in 1710, when by decree of King Augustus II the Strong. Meissen porcelain or Meissen china was the first European hard-paste porcelain. From the 1720’s onward, Meissen’s work was clearly infused by Chinese and East Asian porcelain pieces. In 1720 Johann Gregor Herold became the director and in 1723 introduced brilliant overglaze colors that made Meissen porcelain famous, with an increasingly broad palette of colors that marked the beginning of the classic phase of Meissen porcelain. Throughout the 18th Century, Meissen created some of the most iconic and exquisite Rococo designs in Europe.

In the nineteenth century Ernst August Leuteritz modernized many of the rococo figurines, and reissued them, creating a “Second Rococo” characterized by lacework details (made from actual lace dipped in slip and fired) and applied flowers. In 1903, old styles were revived and reinterpreted, and eighteenth century models restored. Some appealing work in the Art Nouveau style was produced, but Meissen’s mainstay continued to be the constant production of revived eighteenth-century models. After World War II and under Communist rule, the manufacture that had always catered to the rich and wealthy had some difficulty finding its way. The danger was that Meissen would become a factory merely producing for the masses. It was not until 1969, when Karl Petermann became the director, that Meissen went back to focus on its old traditions and was also allowed a freer artistic expression. The Meissen company still produces some of the most beautiful porcelain in the world today.

Our pitcher is in quite good shape. There is crazing in the glaze, but given that the piece is well over 100 years old, this is not that surprising. The blue paint is quite vivid still, and the pattern is really lovely. It is a lovely example of Victorian European porcelain, and we are lucky to have it in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by.

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