AMAM Masterpiece Spotlight: During the Seven Years War, Frederick II, King of Prussia occupied Saxony and briefly took over the famous porcelain factory at Meissen. This factory was founded as the Royal Saxon Porcelain Manufactory in 1710 and is known for being the first European producer of hard-paste, or ‘true’ porcelain. Porcelain of this kind is often called Meissen porcelain in reference to the factory’s location. The rise of tea importation created an interest in decorated cups and drinkware, owing to the factory’s success. In 1720, the factory gained more availability to enamel colors, which allowed craftsmen to further imitate and adapt East Asian decorative styles.
Though Frederick II had always been a lover of the arts and of porcelain in particular, he did not have the skills to create works himself. Indeed, he had begun his own factory in Berlin, but was not satisfied with it. While the Seven Years War began due to the larger matters of state, Frederick took advantage of his occupation of Saxony by taking over the Meissen factory in Dresden. Many of the skilled workmen had fled, and much of the machinery destroyed, but Frederick was able to find men to operate the machines and artists to work there.
With the design help of musician and craftsman Jakob Christian Klipfel, and modeling by Johann Joachim Kändler, an artisan influential in defining the reputation of the factory, Frederick created six dinner services of porcelain works. These sets were some of the last works produced in Dresden before the factory was relocated to Berlin. The soup tureen in the AMAM’s collection (pictured above) belongs to the last, and arguably greatest, of these notable sets. The set represents the swan song of the Meissen factory, and is considered the last great masterpiece turned out there before the leadership in porcelain making passed to Berlin.
This service was gifted to Richard von Möllendorf, a successful general under Frederick II in the principal campaigns of the Seven Years War. The soup tureen is one of 960 pieces belonging to this particular service, featuring orange-red and gold gilt flowers and a Mosaic (or scale-pattern) design. The modeled nymph encircled by fruit and flowers was a repeated motif of this dinner service that also featured models of Venus, Minerva, and other divine women. This service remained an heirloom in the Wilamowitz-Mollendorff family until the 20th century, when part of it went to the Victoria and Albert Museum (see above), and the rest into the hands of a collector, from whom the AMAM acquired the tureen in 1948.
German, Royal Saxon Porcelain Manufactory, Dresden
Meissen Soup Tureen with Cover, c. 1761
Glazed and painted porcelain
R. T. Miller Jr. Fund, 1948.70A-B