Always recognised as one of the leading producers of European porcelain, Germany – and Prussia beforehand – have also had many fine manufactories garnering less widespread recognition than the most famous names – here’s a look at some of them:

In common with the nature of the porcelain industry in France, the
German counterpart had the same hierarchical structure, with notable
facilities at Meissen and Dresden leading the way – underwritten by the
higher echelons of the nobility – and a number of less exalted factories
following on behind under the auspices of their own lesser patrons.

Frankenthal – near Mannheim on the Rhine – had the potential to have
secured a position as one of the most highly regarded manufactories of
all, but – in a curiously circular history – it suffered an enforced
fall from grace. The town itself had been razed by the French during the
Thirty Years War (1689), but was then rebuilt from the ground up with
the express aim of making it a centre of industrial excellence. Amongst
the many entrepreneurs and ambitious artisans attracted to the thriving
settlement was Karl Hannong, formerly of Strasbourg, who had found
himself one of the many French porcelain producers forced to give up the
unequal struggle to sustain a viable business outside of the state-run
monopolies. Finding a far more equitable environment in Germany, and
under the favourable patronage of Karl Theodore, Prince Elector and
Count Palatine of the Rhine, Hannong was, in 1755, able to relocate his
original workforce almost in its entirety quickly establish the
reputation of his works to such an extent that within two years he was
able to induce craftsmen to turn their backs on Meissen and join his
team. With a pattern book featuring elaborately decorated, hard-paste
tableware and some extravagant figurines and tableaux, Hannong was able
to furnish the requirements of an illustrious clientele, and Frankenthal
became very highly regarded. Karl’s death in 1760, though, saw the
business pass in to the hands of his sons, and they managed to run the
financial side of things so badly that the County Palatine assumed
overall control in lieu of the settlement of substantial unserviced
loans. The state-run concern continued to turn out highly desirable
pieces and established a network of retail outlets across France,
Prussia, Switzerland and Italy, being rightly considered one of Europe’s
finest producers. When the clouds of war again shrouded the continent
towards the end of the 18th century, however, it was to spell the end of
production. Once again, the town was occupied by invading French forces
during the Revolutionary War of the Second Coalition (the precursor to
Napoleon’s rise to power) and the factory was abruptly closed down in
1799, never to open again.

Some 350km north east of Frankenthal,
on the River Weser, we find Fürstenberg which – from 1747 – was home to
Porzellanmanufaktur Fürstenberg. The premises were set up under the
guidance of one Johann Georg von Langen, who was able to ingratiate
himself with influential nobles in spite of being born to relatively
humble stock. Starting as little more than a page in Schloss
Elisabethenburg, home to the Dukes of Saxony-Meiningen, Johann Georg
found work as a hunter and forester, a taxman, surveyor, manager of
mines, paper manufacturer and – most notably – as the grower of
Germany’s first commercial crop of potatoes. He was then appointed to
oversee the implementation of porcelain production at Fürstenberg at the
behest of Karl I von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel. The factory was
initially set up in the grounds of the town’s castle on a rocky bluff
high over the Weser, as part of Karl’s broader social plan to bring
wealth to his dominion. Johann Georg struggled to make the best use of
the locally-mined kaolin at his disposal and was dismissed after five
years of constant but ultimately unsuccessful experimentation. It is
mooted that successful porcelain production was only possible at
Fürstenberg from 1752, after the arrival of an unnamed worker from an
already successful factory at Frankfurt-Höchst. The Duke immediately
accelerated the development of the facility, and new kilns, studios and
workshops were constructed within the castle’s environs. The next few
years saw the quality of products refined and greatly improved, and with
shops opening in Braunschweig and Berlin, the reputation of Fürstenberg
grew steadily. Initially best known for the production of vases and
urns, the manufactory broadened its outturn to encompass standard
tablewares and latterly figurines, and it is still in business to this
day, although now operating largely from newly-built premises away from
Karl der Herzog’s castle.

Fürstenberg is often cited as being
Germany’s second-oldest porcelain manufactory, but this distinction only
applies with the caveat “…still operating from its original site”. As
mentioned above, it was a worker from Frankfurt-Höchst who brought the
secrets of genuine porcelain production to the banks of the Weser, and
the factory from which this informant had come would self-evidently been
in a position to produce fine biscuit material in advance of von
Langen’s fruitless endeavours. This Höchster Porzellanmanufaktur was a
venture which had been conceived by Johann Christoph Göltz and Adam
Friedrich von Löwenfinck, the latter being a highly-skilled painter who
had formerly worked for Meissen. The patron behind this concern was the
Elector of Mainz, Johann Friedrich Carl von Ostein, so once again we see
the standard model for a continental porcelain factory, with artisan
craftsmen working under the aegis of beneficent local nobility or a
civic executive. From its earliest inception in 1746, Höchst was only
producing albeit good quality glazed earthenware (generally known as
faience) but it was just two or three years until the intervention of
arcanist Johann Benckgraff and kilnsman Josef Ringler saw porcelain
production introduced. With Löwenfinck’s influence to the fore, Höchst
briefly became known for some very finely painted decorative pieces, but
for some reason he was forced out by Göltz after barely four years of
partnership, and a protracted period of instability followed. In spite
of being able to count on the input of the renowned modeller Johann
Melchior (who later moved to Frankenthal, and then Nymphenburg) this
uncertainty saw ownership of the factory first devolved in to public
hands and then – in order to shore up its shaky financial position – to
the same sort of local government ownership which underpinned
Frankenthal. In spite of this intervention, bankruptcy loomed in 1796,
and with the French army poised to swarm unimpeded across the Rhineland
and beyond, operations were ceased and did not resume for 150 years.
Melchior’s figures and the earlier, occasionally quirky, pieces such as
milk jugs with legs, lidded cruet pots, chocolate pots with wooden
handles, ecuelles (small tureens for use by individual diners) and
porringers (for use at the table rather than in the kitchen) have meant
that Höchst has left a legacy of eminently collectable pieces, if you’re
prepared to hunt them down (there’s an excellent selection which can be
seen at the Victoria & Albert Museum…).

So, it’s clear that
there were many centres of production outside of those normally
considered to characterise Teutonic porcelain-making excellence. Those
detailed above, along with their contemporary manufactories at
Ludwigsburg, Ansbach, Gotha, Wallendorf, Limbach, Nymphenburg and
elsewhere, made up an extensive and highly-skilled industry across
Prussia and the proto-Germanic confederation that should see the region
considered at least the equal of France if one is to ever make a
comparison. As with France, though, politics, warmongering and external
economic factors were to ensure that all but the very finest production
facilities failed to endure much beyond the 18th and early 19th
centuries, and the names of some of these once-illustrious concerns seem
to be fading in to relative obscurity – I hope we’ve reversed this
trend a little with these few words !

Our montage of images is
made up of pieces (by row) from Höchst, Furstenburg and Frankenthal,
with the bottom four being from Ludwigsburg, Wallendorf, Ansbach and
Limbach – and the link is, of course, to the relevant pieces on our own

site search for continental porcelain, including German and Prussian material

for more articles about European glass and porcelain, check the following links:

European Art Glass (part one)

European Art Glass (part two)

Italian Porcelain

French Porcelain

Maltese (Mdina) Glass

Meissen Porcelain