In the 19th century, the Meissen manufactory began to produce a variety of historicist porcelain pieces. Decorative dishes, candleholders and boxes were designed in the style of bygone eras such as the Baroque, Rococo and Gothic periods, and in some cases combined elements of the various artistic movements with one another. The opulent porcelain pieces, which were often completely covered in sumptuous, colourful patterns, corresponded to the desire among the affluent classes of the time to demonstrate their prestige, and also paved the way for Meissen’s success at the World’s Fairs in London, Paris and Chicago. For the “New Splendour” collection, these historic designs are reissued and reinterpreted with modern finishes. Naturalistic bird illustrations, leaf patterns and floral motifs are applied to the structured porcelain as a second coat without taking on the embossed patterns of the pieces themselves – a novelty in the manufactory’s design repertoire. The new, second collection in the series features three dishes, a lidded box and a vase, while the first instalment lends contemporary flair to a trio of dishes, a candlestick and an ornately designed caddy. Each is a showpiece in its own right, embodying the MEISSEN modern yet opulent sensibility.
“Patterns are painted on an elaborate historic relief background – we were fascinated by the idea of creating a second level that ignored the base of the piece and applying it almost like a separate layer. For the second collection, we focused on the highly specialised, traditional craft of the so-called “bird painters” at MEISSEN. The challenge was to achieve something modern and fresh in combination with this naturalistic painting style. So, we took objects such as refined dishes and luxurious boxes, placing portraits of the birds in a kind of cut-out style, but depicting them nonetheless in their natural habitat – portrayed through their poses. We opted for the less “spectacular” birds – songbirds or even vanishing species – so as to lend a certain lightness, almost airiness to the porcelain. And then embellished with a cloudy background that makes for a surrealist undertone, something that René Magritte might have done.”
Otto Drögsler Creative Director
“We focused on the highly specialised, traditional craft of the so-called “bird painters” at MEISSEN. The challenge was to achieve something modern and fresh in combination with this naturalistic painting style.”
Ornamental dishes are some of the most impressive pieces ever created by the Meissen manufactory. Originally a decorative aspect for table settings, starting in the mid-19th century they became the benchmark for the quality of Meissen craftsmanship after being presented at the World’s Fairs.
New Splendour, bird painting
This latest update to the “New Splendour” series revisits truly exquisite historical designs from the mid-19th century, embellishing them with naturalistic bird motifs. These stand in stark contrast to the elaborate surface design, and serve as emblematic symbols of modern opulence. The painted images are applied by hand directly over the intricate surface reliefs – a particularly challenging technique first introduced in 2018 for the first “New Splendour” collection. The detailed bird illustrations celebrate the long-standing tradition of animal painting at MEISSEN.
Otto Drögsler breaks with the Meissen tradition of using a naturalistic approach to decorating structural elements by applying a full-coverage modern pattern to this historic porcelain dish design. The floral motif is inspired by tropical floral prints from the 1940s and features a colourfully yet muted palette that was typical for that time. The exotic flowers are juxtaposed with the piece’s black and white backgrounds, offering a striking visual contrast. The design is hand-painted on an elaborate relief pattern, reflecting the masterful craftsmanship of Meissen’s artists, and is applied in two over-glaze firings. After the background has been applied and fired in the first over-glaze firing, figurative elements are painted on the piece in 10 different colours, shading is added, and then the piece is fired once again in order to achieve its characteristic brilliance.
For “New Splendour, Linear”, Otto Drögsler covers every centimetre of the Baroque contours of these historic dishes and candlesticks with a leaf pattern. The dynamic seashell patterns lend a unique kind of movement to the sleek monochrome pieces. The delicate, hand-painted lines trace the Rocaille contours of the porcelain in parts, bringing the relief designs to the forefront. The painted designs that contrast with the reliefs are applied to a Meissen showpiece dish here for the first time ever – an entirely new approach for the manufactory. Applied in one continuous layer, the finish emphasises the pronounced relief structures that were masterfully created by Meissen’s skilled porcelain artists.