Dresden European Porcelain

The date and place of manufacture of the first true porcelain in Europe is very naturally a question of dispute. It has been claimed that about the year 1500, at Pesaro, in the Duchy of Urbino, porcelain was made. This statement has not been proven, however, and most probably the product was merely a faience of extra fine grain and superior whiteness. The earliest definite information we have points to John Frederich Bottcher as its first manufacturer. Bottcher was a native of Shleiz in Vogtland, Saxony, where he was born in 1682, and from overwork and dissipation died in 1719, when but thirty-seven years old. He studied chemistry, and was reputed to have discovered the ” Philosopher’s Stone.” He was appointed alchemist to King William the First, and having rebelled against the surveillance exercised over him, fled from his court, was captured and confined in the fortress of Konigstein, whence he was taken to Dresden and kept under lock and key. For many years the production of porcelain had been a goal sought for by the chemists of Europe, and Bottcher had spent much time in the search. One day, by chance, he made the discovery. He bought a new powder, called ” Schnorr’s White Powder,” for his wig, and noticing that the powder had great weight and a fine grain, he experimented with it in his crucible and discovered it to be the kaolin of the Chinese.

The first porcelain factory was at Albrechtsburg, in Meissen, and was a veritable fortress, surrounded by a moat. The secret of its manufacture was guarded in the most rigid manner, under a penalty of imprisonment for life to him who should betray it. Notwithstanding these precautions the secret escaped, and, one after another, factories were established. That at Meissen, called the Royal Saxe, because it was under royal patronage, was established in 1704. Bottcher is said to have produced porcelain here in 1707, but it seems doubtful whether it was be-fore 1712 or 1713, as kaolin is not known to have been used even as a wig powder, by Schnorr, until 1711. The pottery produced here, from 1704 until porcelain was made, was of a dull reddish brown, generally unglazed. After 1705 this ware was sometimes polished. A few pieces with colored enamel decorations in relief, were also made at this period.