The Collection

  - Bowl and saucer

Bowl and saucer

Böttger porcelain, Meissen, c. 1717–1719
Painted decoration by the Dresden goldsmith Johann George Funcke

H. 4.9 cm (bowl, 4⅞ in.), Ø 13.4 cm (saucer, 5¼ in.)
For comparison:
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Porzellansammlung (trembleuse); Leipzig, Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst (two-handled beaker, published in Gielke 2003, p. 91, cat. no. 27); London, British Museum (two-handled beaker and saucer); Schwerin, Staatliches Museum (beaker); private collection (trembleuse, published in Pietsch 1993, pp. 42–43, cat. no. 28); formerly Washington, Hans Syz Collection (two bowls and saucers, sugar box and teapot, published in Syz/Jefferson Miller II/Rückert 1979, p. 52, cat. no. 25).

The slightly swelling bowl and deep-welled saucer in Böttger porcelain stand on high foot rings and are decorated with Laub- und Bandelwerk borders that are additionally embellished with large gold-edged ornaments taking the form of leaves and floral rosettes. These are filled in with a so-called Böttger lustre about which Johann Melchior Steinbrück (Frankenhausen 1673–1723 Meissen) had the following to say in the report of 1717: “A short time ago a new kind of embellishment was applied to the white porcelain that is known as a mother-of-pearl or opal glaze, which gives it a new and very beautiful appearance.”1 In addition, the inside of the bowl is entirely gilded. Because in its early years the Meissen manufactory did not have any painters who were skilled in applying enamel colours, let alone in gilding, it commissioned the Dresden goldsmith Johann George Funcke to decorate porcelain wares, principally coffee, tea and chocolate services. Funcke, who by his own account worked for the manufactory from 13 May 1713 onwards, had as a goldsmith ample experience in the art of decorating copper panels with enamel colours; finally, this was the technique that he applied to porcelain, using Régence-style patterns and ornamental borders that had been disseminated in particular through French engravings.

The new vogue for tea-drinking, which was initially restricted to the more elevated social circles, required every such household to be equipped with the appropriate table wares. As Böttger was in principle opposed to East Asian tea wares because of their inelegant form and strange decoration, the only wares he considered acceptable for this purpose were the “wares required for drinking tea, coffee and chocolate” which “as a result of lengthy efforts they [he and others at Meissen] had learned to make in a fairly good manner”.2 The forms of the Meissen drinking bowls and saucers, far from being determined solely by aesthetic factors, were closely linked to a certain habit that had developed in the context of the new habit of tea-drinking. In order to ensure that the hot beverage cooled more quickly, it was customary to pour it into the saucer, which thus ideally had to be able to accommodate the same volume of liquid as the bowl. This is graphically illustrated by a painting from the hand of Benedikt Beckenkamp (Ehrenbreitstein 1747–1828  Cologne) which shows the Archbishop-Elector of Trier Clemens Wenzeslaus of Saxony (Schloss Hubertusburg/Wermsdorf 1739–1812 Marktoberdorf/Allgäu) drinking tea with his sisters Maria Kunigunde (Warsaw 1740–1826 Dresden) and Maria Christina of Saxony (Warsaw 1735–1782 Brumath). While Maria Christina is still stirring her tea, Maria Kunigunde has already poured hers into her saucer, which she is holding between the thumb and index figure of her left hand.

1. Exh. cat. Dresden 2010, p. 175, cat. no. 25.
2. Quoted from exh. cat. Dresden 2010, p. 173, cat. no. 20.
Provenance: Hamburg, Sammlung Hoffmeister (published in mus. cat. Hamburg 1999, p. 120ff.).

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