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Early Meissen Porcelain Bowl by J E Stadler 1720-5

£4,000.00

Product Code:2019051401

1 in stock

1 in stock

Description

Heading : An Early Meissen porcelain bowl
Date : 1720-5
Marks : Broad crossed swords
Origin : Meissen.Saxony. Germany
Colour : Polychrome with Bottger lustre within the flowerheads and rocks
Pattern : Indianische blumen by J E Stadler
Condition : One 3mm underglaze chip on the rim of the bowl. Two small bubbles in the glaze.
Restoration : None
Dimensions : Height 8.4cms. diameter 16.7cms
Weight : 363 grams

The pink purple lustre invented by the chemist Johann Friedrich Bottger is a gold based compound. The analysis of the chemicals used in both the bodies . enamels and glazes has been studied extensively. This can provide empirical dating evidence. This colour is most frequently observed with chinoiserie designs.

See The Charachterisation of 18th Century Meissen Porcelain – Domoney. Shortland and Kuhn

Eric Knowles Comments

This relatively simple bowl is the result of a succession of incredible events that began in 1701 when the 19 year old Johann Frederick Bottger held a private demonstration before his employer the apothecary Frederick Zorn and two other guests.

During this demonstration he melted fifteen silver coins and at a critical moment added a mysterious white powder after which the molten metal was poured into an ingot and later tested proving the now hardened metal to be nothing less than pure gold.

Needless to say that Bottger must have practised some sleight of hand possibly by using silver covered gold coins or even substituting the ingot. What is for certain is that what the audience had witnessed was not the transmutation of base metal into gold.

Despite all present being sworn to secrecy word that an alchemist had the ability to turn base metal into gold had reached Frederick King of Prussia
Needless to say the King was eager to meet this young alchemist and sent word for him to appear before him and repeat his wondrous feat.

Bottger however took both fright at the royal command as he knew full well that repeating his deception would inevitably lead to his trickery being exposed and consequently took flight as Frederick was not a monarch to be crossed or be deceived as those that had dared in the past had paid with their lives.
Consequently the young man absconded under the cover of darkness into the neighbouring kingdom of Saxony.

Upon hearing this news Frederick. who was not going to lose the supposed talents of a man who could make him the richest monarch in the world. sent troops in pursuit to apprehend him and return him to Prussia.
The search party eventually tracked down Bottger to his room at the University of Wittenberg where he had recently enrolled whilst determined to maintain a low profile.

The sensitive relations between Prussia and Saxony demanded careful protocol with the Prussians therefore having to formally request the extradition of Bottger ‘for certain important reasons as a fugitive from Prussian justice.
The local court official however was immediately suspicious and when he eventually was made aware that Bottger had the formula or ‘Arcanum’ for making gold he sent word to his King in Dresden – Augustus 11. King of Poland and Elector of Saxony.

Augustus the Strong . so called for his ability of being able to straighten horse shoes with his bare hands not to mention reputedly fathering 360 or more children . was at that time engaged with a war against Sweden and in desperate need of gold to pay his army.

News of a man who could had the Arcanum on Saxon soil must have been received as an almost divine intervention and sent word to Wittenberg that under no circumstances was this man to be returned to Prussia and to be brought immediately to Dresden.

This command once received by the court official demanded a diplomatic response to the Prussians camped outside the city walls who were advised that certain legal issues needed to be addressed as Bottger had been born in a Saxon province and as such not a Prussian citizen. A few days later our fugitive was smuggled out of Wittenberg under the cover of darkness and spirited through the back lanes and roads to avoid the would be captors.

For several more days the local justice officials maintained the pretence that Bottger was still under house arrest by sending in regular meals past the Prussian guards. When the truth became known the furious Prussians returned to Berlin and relations between Berlin and Dresden reached an all-time low
Meanwhile it soon became apparent to Johann Frederick Bottger that he might well have avoided the frying pan but not the fire as he was to spend much of his remaining life as a virtual prisoner of Augustus the Strong and in fear of his life.

Initially he was set the task of repeating of what had obviously been a ‘party trick’ and woefully unable to perform and be true to his promise of producing vast quantities of gold to the expectations for his regal gaoler.
Two years later Bottger managed to escape but five days later was recaptured in neighbouring Austria and returned to Dresden where Bottger had every reason to fear the worst

Fortunately Augustus spared his life whilst remaining convinced that Bottger would find a way of making gold but two years later in 1705 it became abundantly clear that he was no nearer then than he had been four years earlier to fulfilling his promise.

Apart from the usual excesses applied to Augustus he had one particular vice that became a total obsession and that was his love of Oriental porcelain. Such was their value that such porcelains were regarded as ‘white gold’. He had managed to amass a large collection of both Chinese and Japanese porcelain which was to eventually be housed in his Japanese Palace in Dresden.
However it had been the dream of his and many another European monarch to be able to manufacture this mystical opaque pure white ceramic. the formula of which appeared to be a much guarded secret of the Chinese makers.

Augustus had already secured the services of a trusted councillor called Ehrenfried Walter von Tschirnhaus to source suitable clays and minerals
Von Tschirnhaus had already met Bottger and recognising his situation suggested that he should join him in his laboratory in the Albrechtsburg Castle in Meissen and assist in his endeavours to find the formula for white gold

Fortunately Augustus having lavished huge amounts on Bottger’s failed attempts saw this request as a means of saving face and in the following years was to be rewarded with a pure. white and true porcelain. a variant of which is still made to this day under the illustrious name of Meissen Porcelain

But what I have related here is a mere fraction of the true story relating to the many other characters and situations that both helped and thwarted Johann Frederick Bottger in his mission to find the formula for white gold that was to save his life but at the cost of his sanity. If only the illustrated simple yet beautifully enamelled bowl illustrated above could talk!

To learn more I heartily recommend as a seriously good read ‘The Arcanum’ by my good friend Janet Gleeson published by Warner Books in 1998 ISBN 0-446-52499-9

Eric Knowles

Additional information

Weight750 g

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