Since the early 13th century, Europe’s ruling houses had been importing porcelain at mind-boggling prices from China. Research aimed at cracking the secret of how porcelain was made commenced at Meißen early in the 18th century. Those involved were Johann Friedrich Böttger, Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus, the Freiberg Mining Counsellor Gottfried Pabst von Ohain and further mining and smelting specialists. The research was commissioned by Augustus the Strong, Elector Prince of Saxony and King of Poland.
The work proved successful. The first white porcelain was produced in 1708 under the direction of Johann Friedrich Böttger. Europe’s first porcelain had been born.
The MEISSEN Manufactory is Europe’s most heritage-rich creator of fine arts and hand-crafted luxury.
Since it was established as Europe’s first porcelain manufactory in 1710 by King Augustus the Strong, Meissen has become one of the best-known German luxury brands in the world. The name stands for legendary quality, stylish elegance and long-lasting value.
Its principal assets took the form of formulae and techniques for the manufacture of porcelain, which were meant to be kept utterly secret. Only very few employees were familiar with even part of this manufacturing secret, generally known as the arcanum. But secrets tend to get betrayed: in 1718, the Meissen arcanist Samuel Stöltzel attempted to use his knowledge to set up a rival to Meissen in Vienna. This attempted faking exercise rendered a system of “marking” necessary: this was the only way of proving the authenticity of a given piece of Meissen Porcelain. Several means of identifying porcelain were devised in the years immediately following the Manufactory’s foundation. It wasn’t until underglaze cobalt blue was perfected at Meissen in 1720, however, that a forgery-proof system of marking was found.
It was then a question of deciding on the symbol or sign to be adopted. The most familiar mark from this period is the monogram of the then Elector Prince of Saxony and King of Poland, Augustus the Strong, used from about 1720. On 8 November 1722, Johann Melchior Steinbrück, first Inspector at the Manufactory, proposed using a motif from the Electoral Saxon coat-of-arms. The ensuing adoption of the “crossed swords” gave rise to a mark whose history and familiarity throughout the world have remained without parallel ever since.
Sequences of letters continued to be used as alternatives to the “crossed swords” up to about 1730, examples being:
K.P.M. = Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur
M.P.M. = Meissener Porzellan-Manufaktur
K.P.F. = Königliche Porzellan-Fabrik.
The “crossed swords” mark became the preferred solution for Meissen Porcelain from about 1731, aided and abetted by orders to this effect from the Royal Court in Dresden. Asterisks, dots, numerals and various other symbols have occasionally been added to the “crossed swords”, though the form of the latter has remained largely unaltered.
The “crossed swords” are still painted on by hand today.
The MEISSEN luxury group is now made up of the following business segments:
MEISSEN Fine Art
The Manufactory supplies limited-edition works of art under its Fine Art brand that are still, today, traditionally made on the basis of its historical inventory of over 700,000 moulds. Very much as is the case in the highly complex watchmaker’s trade (the tourbillon being a notable example), figural works of plastic porcelain art make the most exacting demands of the artisans who produce them, as do exclusive styles of painting to traditional patterns adopting any of 10,000 colours that are the Manufactory’s own. Its annual limited editions are particularly coveted investment items for collectors the world over.
Under its artCAMPUS brand, the Manufactory supplies one-off works and editions by contemporary artists from all over the world that are exclusively exhibited at the artCAMPUS gallery in the city of Meissen as well as at major contemporary art fairs.
MEISSEN Joaillerie is a business segment created by the Manufactory during its recent tercentennial year whose roots date back to when it was first founded. The heritage-rich company operates Meissen Joaillerie to supply artistic jewellery creations and accessories inspired by its 300-year-old history. In the long term, MEISSEN Joaillerie aims to position itself internationally as a leading German jewellery brand.
The Manufactory supplies a world of select interior appointments under its MEISSEN HOME brand. From hand-refined wall and floor coverings through striking candelabras to furniture that is hand-made with loving attention to detail, each and every item in this exclusive collection pays homage to 300 years of corporate history.
In the long term, MEISSEN HOME is set to position itself internationally as a leading partner for stylish, top-notch interiors.
MEISSEN HOME deco
The MEISSEN HOME deco segment covers a whole world of table culture plus decorative accessories and gift articles. Its widely varied world of accessories and gift ideas embraces everything from the legendary Swan Service and the familiar 700-piece Onion Pattern service, both from the 18th century, to up-to-the-minute, hand-refined picture frames in Meissen porcelain and goatskin.
Just as they were in the 18th century, custom orders by famous personalities and royalty or, indeed, anyone who’s after a gift that’s a little bit special, are one of the Manufactory’s great strengths and are now processed by MEISSEN Individuell.
The MEISSEN Corporation currently employs over 600 people plus those at its subsidiaries MEISSEN Italia in Milan and MEISSEN Asia Pacific. The Federal State of Saxony is the sole shareholder.