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Friday, September 3, 2010

MEISSEN PORCELAIN: History meets quality

Meissen Tea Service, Available at:

Any individual or collector who takes an interest in porcelain knows the name Meissen well. But why are items made by the Meissen Porcelain Manufactory so well-known and valuable? It is because Meissen has continually produced high-quality hand-crafted work since its founding as the first hard-paste porcelain manufactory in Europe.

Meissen porcelain is made in Meissen, Germany, just outside Dresden. The manufactory was founded by the Prince-Elector of Saxony, Friedrich August I in 1710. However, the foundations of the manufactory began much earlier, when the Prince-Elector of Saxony took a young alchemist, Johann Friedrich Böttger, under his protection. Böttger was meant to chemically produce gold for the prince, but instead, in 1708, he discovered the secret to making porcelain, and the first hard-paste European porcelain manufactory soon followed.

Meissen Hunting Cup, by Johann Joachim Kändler, circa 1741(Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Once the manufactory was established, it began producing hand-made porcelain pieces, which continued to develop in quality and detail. The pieces created under model master Johann Joachim Kändler, who joined the company in 1731, are particularly exemplary. A prime example of Meissen quality and importance is the porcelain hunting goblet produced in 1739 for the Prince-Elector of Cologne, Clemens August. The piece is highly detailed and was created using several individually molded pieces (see image below). The original that belonged to Clemens August has long been lost, but three other goblets pulled from the molds at the same time (backups in case the original cracked in the kiln) were uncovered in the 20th Century. These goblets fetched high prices when sold, and are now all in museums and prominent collections.

Plaster molds and assembly for a 20th century remolding of the Clemens August Hunting Goblet (Röntgen, pg. 8)

Meissen pieces have such a strong reputation because of their historical significance and quality. Due to this, they have long been fodder for imitators and forgers. Furthermore, there are often official Meissen pulls from old molds causing confusion in regards to the age of particular pieces. So, how do you, as a new collector of Meissen, determine the authenticity, value and age of your porcelain items. The easiest way would be to look for a mark and compare it to official Meissen marks from all periods. However, sometimes items go unmarked, or the fake mark is so good that it passes as valid by the untrained eye. This is why taking your items to a professional appraiser will prove invaluable. We, at MIR Appraisal Services, Inc., will examine your porcelain and help you determine the value, age and authenticity of your items. Please feel free to call or email us with any questions, or stop by our office to meet our staff in person.

Researched and written by Anja Keppeler

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.

Principal Appraiser: Farhad Radfar, ISA AM

307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308

Chicago, IL 60601

(312) 814-8510

MIR Appraisal Services is located just steps from the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Cultural Center; please do give us a ring to set up an appointment for a verbal evaluation of your most prized works of art.


Röntgen, Robert E. 1984. The Book of Meissen. Exton, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing Limited.

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    Welcome to our blog site! MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is a fine art and personal property appraisal company dedicated to serving clients throughout the United States and abroad since our incorporation in Chicago in 1994. We specialize in the multi-faceted field of appraising fine art, jewelry, antiques, and decorative items. We also provide professional fine art restoration and conservation treatment for various media, including but not limited to, artworks on canvas, board, masonite, and paper. We offer professional and precise appraisal services carried out by our team of accredited appraisers for the purposes of insurance coverage and claims, charitable donations, estate planning and probate, equitable distribution and fair-market value. We started our art commentary blog site as a venue for colleagues and fellow art enthusiasts to share their experiences within the art community.