Saturday, November 17, 2007

German Porcelain

German Porcelain: First "true" or hard paste porcelain produced in Europe 1709 under Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland by goldsmith and alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger. Initial experiments produce high-fire red stoneware, could be carved, polished. Often based on designs by Johann Jakob Irminger for metalwares. Böttger discovers use of kaolin to make true porcelain paste ("arcanum"—see great book, The Arcanum by Janet Gleeson). Meissen factory employs 500 people by end of century. Unpainted blanks smuggled out or sold to be decorated by independent artists--Hausmaler tradition ("house painters").
Most important Meissen designer Johann Joachim Kandler--creates numerous table figures based on Italian comedy (commedia dell'arte—stock characters wealthy merchant Pantaloon, beautiful Columbine, jester Harlequin) and pastoral shepherd groups (after French painters Watteau, Boucher), heraldic animals decorate Japanese palace of Augustus (large, difficult to fire, often cracked—based on actual animal studies), Swan service for Count von Bruhl. Johann Gregor Horroldt--major painter, develops overglaze colours (1669-1775) Porcelain also produced in Nymphenburg (Swiss modeler, Franz Anton Bustelli), Berlin, Vienna.
The first European hard-paste porcelain factory was founded in 1710 in Dresden by decree of Augustus II (1670-1733), King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, as a result of the successful porcelain experiments of Johann Friedrich Böttger (1682-1719), and Ehrenfried Walther, Count von Tschirhausen (1651-1708). Following Böttger’s death, the factory was administered by Johann Melchior Steinbrück, who appointed Johann Gregor Höroldt (1696-1775) as manager of the decorators’ workshop.
After 1731, the factory was directed by a treasury board, under the presidency of the king. In 1733, the factory came under the direction of Heinrich, Count von Brühl (1700-63), with whose patronage the outstanding modeler Johann Friedrich Kändler (1706-75) developed the medium of small-scale sculpture in European porcelain. The factory was disastrously affected by the Seven Years War (1756-63), and fell gradually into decline and financial hardship, reviving in the late 19th century. The factory survives today.
Overglaze enamels: Under the direction of Johann Höroldt, Meissen greatly expanded the color palette available for decoration. First a piece of porcelain would be fired to high temperature On on top of this hard, fired surface, overglazes would be applied. Overglaze colors are very low temperature glazes, mixtures of glass, lead, binder, and pigment. The lead acts as a flux, melting the glass at a very low temperature (around 1300° F). The binder used was often a thick (very toxic, turpentine-based) oil, which would allow the overglaze to 'stick' to the glazed surface.
During the firing the oil would burn away, leaving the melted glaze sitting on top of the previously fired high temperature glaze. Pigments used were the usual oxides of iron, cobalt, copper, manganese, antimony, and chrome. By blending and mixing these colors, Höroldt was able to create a rich and nuanced palette of colors with which to work. The main advantage of overglazing is that colors that cannot be achieved at porcelain temperatures can be attained at this lower temperature. The main disadvantage is their relative impermanence. Abrasion will cause the color to wear away.

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