Travel Report – Regina Brown Fellowship Award

The Regina Brown Undergraduate Fellowship made it possible for me to travel to the German cities of Dresden and Meissen, where I visited the Zwinger Palace, the Historic Green Vault, the Meissen Porcelain Factory, and the Albrechtsburg Castle. I wanted to visit these places to study Meissen’s world-renowned porcelain and its history.

Dresden is home to the impressive collections of Frederick Augustus II “The Strong,” Elector Prince of Saxony and King of Poland (1660-1733). Augustus had great influence on the development of the city; his tastes in art and architecture characterized Dresden until World War II, when the city was almost completely destroyed. During his reign, he was obsessed with collecting items made of “white gold,” and as a result, porcelain was valued even more than gold. Augustus collected tens of thousands of exclusive pieces in what remains the world’s most magnificent compilation of élite porcelain items. His collections are on display at the Zwinger Palace and in the Historic Green Vault of the Dresden Castle.

Augustus transformed the Zwinger Palace into one of Germany’s most magnificent Baroque buildings. Today the Zwinger houses the Porcelain Collection of Dresden, the largest and most exquisite collection of specialty porcelain in the world. I explored its galleries for several hours and studied these individual pieces, designed and produced for Augustus by the Meissen Porcelain Factory, and his collection of Asian porcelain wares from the 17th and early 18th centuries. It was exciting to see all of these porcelain pieces side by side in one place. This collection is a great source of information about the imagery and the development of various patterns, painting and decorating styles such as cobalt painting, kakiemon, nishiki-de, famille rose, and famille verte. The Asian wares from Arita, Japan and Jingedezhen, China, show where the inspiration for European porcelain originated and I discovered how greatly they influenced the work of early porcelain painters at Meissen.

With the Historic Green Vault, Augustus established another gem of Baroque architecture that displays his collection of more than 3,000 pieces of ivory, bronzes, precious stones, and metals. Augustus designed this vault as a treasure chamber to display his wealth and absolute power. I explored the arrangement of the objects and walked through the Amber Cabinet, the Ivory Room, the White Silver Room, the Silver Gilt Room, the Hall of Precious Objects, the Heraldry Room, the Jewel Room, and the Bronze Room.

The Meissen Porcelain Factory, originally located in the Albrechtsburg Castle in the early 18th century, is the birthplace of European porcelain. This was where Johann Friedrich Böttger developed the formula for fine porcelain in 1709. Meissen started producing the finest dinner sets and also designed tens of thousands of individual pieces for Augustus. To this day Meissen is still a leading force in fine European porcelain production for dinner and coffee sets, figurines, vases, and collectibles. I ate lunch on Meissen’s newly designed “Waves” service and learned about table culture and arrangements. In the museum at the Meissen Manufaktur I studied the great collection of Meissen porcelain from its beginning in 1710. I toured the manufacturing showrooms and saw how the porcelain was molded, assembled and then painted.

Since the summer of 2014, I have visited the porcelain capitals of the world: Arita in Japan, Jingdezhen in China and Meissen in Germany. My trip to Dresden was the culmination of my research on historic porcelain. I gained insights into the porcelain craze and the lavish lifestyle of 18th-century European aristocrats. I am inspired by the decorating styles and designs of the old masters and will incorporate these observations into my own work.

[NCECA Journal 2014, Volume 35, HKM Direct Market Communications, Cleveland, Ohio]