European Porcelain of the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries

Gardiner Museum

Explore the Gardiner Museum's significant collection of 18th and early 19th century European porcelain.

In the late seventeenth century, “porcelain fever” broke out in Europe. Princes and wealthy merchants were consumed by the passion to collect and use Asian porcelain. Imported porcelain from China and Japan was expensive and was perceived as a tangible sign of prestige and taste. It was only after many experiments that porcelain was made in Europe. Two types of porcelain were made in Europe: high-fired “hard paste” porcelain, first made in China and later in Europe, which contained kaolin, and low-fired “soft-paste” porcelain which did not. All porcelain is white, translucent, and resonant; hard-paste porcelain and some varieties of soft-paste can withstand the thermal shock of boiling liquids. In the 1680s, experiments led to the first commercially viable manufactory of soft-paste porcelain in Europe at Saint-Cloud, outside Paris. It was only after extensive experiments in Saxony by an alchemist, Johann Friedrich Böttger, and a physicist, Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus, that the first European hard-paste porcelain was made, resulting in the founding of the Meissen porcelain manufactory in 1710. Soft-paste porcelain manufactories were established in France, England, Italy, and Spain in the mid-eighteenth century, but eventually the technology of hard-paste porcelain spread and became dominant in continental Europe.
Austrian Porcelain
In 1718, Claudius Innocentius Du Paquier established a porcelain manufactory in Vienna with a small group of partners. Rather than undertake lengthy and expensive experiments in the production of porcelain, he acquired the arcanum (the secrets of porcelain production) and key personnel from Meissen through stealth and bribery. Although Du Paquier did not have direct royal support and operated on a commercial basis, which made it inherently risky, the manufactory is known for its creativity. It survived for twenty-five years and was taken over by the Empress Maria Theresa in 1744, when it became the Imperial Manufactory. The Gardiner Museum’s collection of Du Paquier porcelain was mostly assembled by George and Helen Gardiner and is among the top two public collections in North America. There is also a small collection of porcelain made at the Imperial Manufactory.

Straddling the lid of this wall vase is a dragon-taming Chinese magician, his coat adorned with mystical symbols. He holds a golden leash and the tail of a most beguiling dragon that sports a toothy grin and long eye lashes. Underneath the lid is a pierced container that could be used for potpourri or flowers. Holes in the back of the vessel show that it was intended to be suspended on a wall or in a cabinet.

Whimsical fantasy and creative genius are the hallmarks of Du Paquier porcelain. The Gardiner Museum has one of the most important collections of early Du Paquier in North America, and this unique wall vase is among its greatest treasures. It was also the favourite object of our founder, George Gardiner.

Situated on the border of the Holy Roman Empire, Vienna lived with the constant threat of invasion from the Ottoman Turks. As recently as 1683, the city had been besieged by them. This concern is reflected in the contemporary and historical battles scenes depicted on this lantern.

The turbaned figures in one scene may record the 1716 Battle of Peterwardein in the Balkans, or a later battle in 1717, when the Austrian Imperial forces expelled the Turks from Belgrade and establishing the Danube River as the border between Islam and Christianity.

This dish is considered to be among the most exquisite creations of the manufactory. It is an example of the miniaturist style, involving delicate stippling in enamel colours, a technique that was introduced at Du Paquier in the 1730s. If you look carefully, you can see the head of a lion hidden among the rocks...

... on the right side of the dish.

One of the most magnificent services created at the Du Paquier manufactory was possibly a gift from the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles VI (1685–1740), to Czarina Anna Ivanovna in celebration of the alliance between their two nations during the War of the Polish Succession. Twenty-two round, oval, and octagonal tureens in two sizes and two wine coolers from this service are preserved in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. A small number of pieces from the service are found outside Russia, including this one.

Although linked by common features, such as the imperial Russian armorial, each tureen is an individual work of art with different hand-painted borders and details. Because no porcelain stands for the tureens survive, it is presumed that they were made of silver or gold.

Once part of a set of three flasks, this vessel was used to serve sweet Tokay wine. It is a magnificent example of Du Paquier’s austere but sumptuous decorative strapwork (Laub- und Bandelwerk) in black and gold. The scene is of Amphitrite fleeing Neptune from an engraving of a Procession of Sea Creatures by Alessandro Temini (active 1630–50).

English Porcelain
Despite early experiments, the first commercially successful production of porcelain in England did not occur until 1745, when the Chelsea manufactory was established in London. By the 1750s a number of porcelain manufacturers were operating in London, the Midlands, East Anglia, and the West of England.  All English porcelain manufacturers were run as commercial businesses by entrepreneurs without direct royal or noble patronage. Early English porcelain was “soft-paste”, low-fired, and made without kaolin. During the second half of the eighteenth century, manufacturers tried different formulas to prevent their porcelain from slumping during firing or from cracking when filled with boiling liquids—an essential requirement given the British love of tea. Bodies could include “frit”, a glassy compound made of a variety of different materials that were ground and added to clay; soapstone, which prevented cracking; and bone ash, which added strength. Eventually, kaolin was discovered in England and some hard-paste porcelain was produced. The Gardiner Museum’s assemblage of English porcelain includes gifts made by many significant Canadian collectors including George and Helen Gardiner, Vernon W. Armstrong, Norman B. and Cicely B. Bell, Barry and Marjorie Pepper, and the Radlett Collection. It is the most comprehensive in the country.

The porcelain manufactory at Bow, founded by 1748, produced charming ornamental birds and animals for its middle-class market. Between 1750 and 1765 it introduced thirty-three different bird models, derived from Meissen and Chelsea originals or from engravings published in George Edwards’ Natural History of Uncommon Birds (London, 1743–47). Bow was the first manufactory to use the white ash of calcined cattle bones in its porcelain, thereby lessening losses in the kiln.

Underglaze blue grounds were a speciality of Worcester in the 1760s and 1770s.

The rabbit tureen, made of soft-paste porcelain, was produced in England at the Chelsea manufactory. Early Chelsea porcelain was similar to French porcelain in that its many ingredients included frit – a mixture of glassy materials that were finely ground into powder and added to the porcelain paste to give it translucency and strength.

Charles Gouyn (fl. 1735–1784), the proprietor of the St. James’s manufactory, was a jeweller, so it is not surprising that he specialized in small, exquisite trifles such as scent bottles. He also made figures, including this rare documentary piece commemorating the death of Frederick, prince of Wales, on March 31, 1751. St James’s porcelain contained a glassy frit, similar to French soft-past porcelain, but with a high lead content from flint glass.

In 1751 Nicholas Crisp (1704–1774), a London jeweller, and John Sanders (d. 1758), a delftware potter, established a porcelain manufactory in Vauxhall in South London and acquired a licence to mine soapstone. This ingredient enabled their porcelain to withstand boiling water – a great advantage for a producer of wares for hot beverages such as tea and coffee. Vauxhall lost its licence for soapstone in 1760, and the manufactory closed three years later.

French Porcelain
Just as elsewhere in Europe, Asian porcelain was collected with passion in France in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. It became part of the goût chinois (Chinese taste), which remained popular until the late eighteenth century. Porcelain was used by the nobility and the wealthy bourgeoisie for decorating, dining, the refined drinking of tea, chocolate, and coffee, and for personal uses in the boudoir. Soft-paste porcelain was first produced in France in the late seventeenth century, developing from experiments made by faïence makers. The first commercially successful porcelain manufactory was established in Saint-Cloud, outside Paris. Other small manufactories, such as Chantilly and Villeroy-Mennecy enjoyed the patronage of the nobility. But it was the manufactory of Vincennes-Sèvres, which flourished with royal patronage and ownership, that became the arbiter of porcelain style throughout Europe from the mid-1750s until the Revolution.  French manufacturers made soft-paste porcelain until kaolin was discovered at Limoges in the late 1760s, when hard-paste porcelain was produced by Sèvres, and later in Paris. George and Helen Gardiner’s collection of French porcelain has been enhanced with significant gifts from private collectors including Pierre Karch and Mariel O’Neill-Karch. It is the most comprehensive public collection in Canada.

Warm, scented water would have been presented in this exquisite ewer and basin to a lady for washing her hands and face. The basin is formed of interspersed water-lily leaves and flowers, while the handle of the ewer reflects its association with liquids. Both have rare pink grounds, derived from gold. The colour was very costly and was used for only a short time.

The Saint-Cloud factory was founded in 1664 with a mandate to produce both tin-glazed earthenware and Chinese-style porcelain. Because the recipe for making porcelain was unknown in Europe at the time, the Saint-Cloud potters experimented with different combinations of materials before finally settling on a paste made largely from a mixture of white clay and crushed glass. This vase is one of the earliest examples of Saint-Cloud porcelain and is decorated with a still life image derived from contemporary Chinese porcelains.

Dressed in tattered second-hand garments, street vendors sang to announce their wares or services. A 1765 inventory of a Parisian merchant, Charles Hennique, included coloured and plain Mennecy figures of merchants representing street vendors from Les Cris de Paris, a series of engravings. These beautifully modelled figures were made by an unknown sculptor.

This perfume burner is modelled after a Chinese Budai, the Daoist god of happiness and good fortune, known in France as a magot de la Chine. Small conical pastilles were placed within the celestial globe and burnt to release their aromatic fragrance through the pierced cover. Originally, the magot’s hands were on pivots and the heat would have set them in motion, wafting the aroma throughout the room.

The enemies of Madame de Pompadour took pleasure in spreading malicious false rumours about the royal mistress. They said that during the winter, to amuse the king, she spent a fortune on porcelain flowers that were “planted” in her garden at the château of Bellevue and watered with perfume.

Only seven fragile Vincennes porcelain watering cans have survived, this one being the earliest example.

The service is composed of two cups and saucers, a teapot, a covered sugar bowl, a creamer, two crystal decanters and cordial glasses of different sizes, a crystal funnel, four silver demitasse spoons and two tin tea caddies hidden beneath the tea cups. The set which brings together objects in different media was probably put together by a “marchand-mercier” (a luxury goods merchant). Since “Paris Porcelain” was produced in great quantities and available at lower costs, the tea service is an excellent example of the type of wares accessible to a broader middle class. In addition, the decorative scheme composed of a frieze, garlands and gilding on a white ground exemplifies the taste for neoclassical decoration of the late 18th century.

German Porcelain
Hard-paste porcelain was first produced commercially in Europe at Meissen, where a manufactory was established in 1710 by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland. Despite ardent attempts to prevent the arcanum (the secrets of porcelain production) from spreading, it proved impossible. Thanks to the poaching of expertise and personnel, a small private enterprise was established in 1718 in Vienna by Du Paquier.  However, Meissen flourished and dominated the production of hard-paste porcelain in Europe until the late 1750s, when Saxony was defeated during the Seven Years War. In 1745 the arcanum was stolen from Vienna.  Porcelain manufactories were consequently established all over the German States and throughout Europe. Most were patronised by local princes and aristocrats, as it became highly fashionable to own a porcelain manufactory.  Many of these failed by the end of the eighteenth century, but a few continue to flourish today. The Gardiner Museum has outstanding holdings of Meissen porcelain given by George and Helen Gardiner. These were substantially expanded by the collection of Dr. Hans Syz, which includes examples from every German porcelain manufactory of the second half of the eighteenth century.

This bowl has the earliest known scenes of Canada on porcelain. They were inspired by engravings of indigenous Canadian costumes published by Carel Allard in 1695. The “Canada Bowl” is a national treasure and one of the museum’s most important objects.

The Japanese Palace of Augustus the Strong in Dresden was intended to be the showcase of both the king’s collection of Asian porcelains and the superiority of Meissen wares. A great gallery in the palace, 170 feet (82 metres) long, was to contain all sorts of native and foreign birds and animals of pure porcelain furnished in their natural sizes and colours.

Two sculptors, Johann Gottlieb Kirchner (b.1706) and Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706–1775) worked on the project. In 1732 alone, Augustus ordered 184 different animals and 214 birds. Each was a work of extraordinary technical and artistic accomplishment. This eagle, copied directly from a Japanese porcelain original, was one of the first birds to be made for the gallery.

Frederick the Great (1712–1786) sometimes amusingly referred to himself as the “best customer” of his Royal Porcelain Manufactory in Berlin, which he had purchased in 1763. He ordered numerous services for his palaces, and the porcelain echoed the overall rococo design. This Écuelle (covered bowl for broth) was once part of a service created for Frederick’s remarkable Chinese teahouse in the gardens of the Palace of Sans Souci.

This service, a solitaire, has scenes of a performance by Harlequin. A solitaire is the name given to a tea service made for just one person. A servant supplied boiling water in a kettle, while the lady or gentleman prepared the tea themselves.

Other European Porcelain
Soft- and hard-paste European porcelain manufactories which do not appear as separate categories on this site can be found in this section. Soft-paste porcelain continued to be made in Europe during the first three quarters of the eighteenth century.  However, once the components and technology of the arcanum (the secrets of porcelain production) became known, and deposits of kaolin were found, hard-paste porcelain manufactories sprang up all across Europe in the second half of the eighteenth century. Porcelain manufactories from Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Russia are represented in the collection. Most eighteenth-century European porcelain manufactories are found in the Gardiner Museum, largely thanks to the gift of the heirs of Dr. Hans Syz, who donated 430 figures and wares from 56 porcelain manufactories.

This Belgian figural group shows children playing, a theme popularized by the French painter François Boucher (1703-1770), and reflected a mid-18th century taste for sentimentality.

The earliest European porcelain was made in Florence between 1575 and 1587 under the patronage of Francesco I de’ Medici, grand duke of Tuscany (1541–1587). A limited number of individual soft-paste porcelain objects were made.
Porcelain was not produced again in Italy until the early eighteenth century.
The Marchese Carlo Ginori (1702–1757) began making porcelain at Doccia in Florence in 1737, assisted by two Du Paquier employees. The manufactory still operates today.

Commedia dell'Arte
Among the most distinctive areas of the Gardiner Museum’s collection is its famous group of 150 European porcelain figures inspired by the Commedia dell’Arte. The Commedia dell’Arte was a popular form of theatre that emerged in Europe during the Renaissance and remained popular until well into the eighteenth century. The collection includes examples from most European porcelain manufactories showing the characters and costumes of the actors, their gestures, and comic poses. These figures were usually utilized as ornaments for the table in the eighteenth century. The origin of the collection is also of interest. It was initially assembled by George Gardiner as a memento of his directorship of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd., publishers of popular novels. It has since been augmented by gifts from William and Molly Anne Macdonald and the heirs of Dr. Hans Syz.

Sexual lazzi in the Commedia dell’Arte frequently employed childish humour. In Germany, sausages were often used as suggestive props. Here, Harlequin is teasing Columbine by showing her his “sausage.”

The outstanding porcelain sculptor of the Rococo period was Franz Anton Bustelli (active 1754–1763), who created expressive commedia dell’arte figures at Nymphenburg in about 1760.

Harlequin holds a newborn monkey in his arms, regarding it as his child.

The character Mezzetin was created by the actor Angelo Constantini (1655–1730) who performed in Paris in the 1680s. He was known as singer and player of the guitar, and as a dancer.

Scaramouche and La Scaramouche are dancing together in an eccentric style, with exuberant movements. Her shortened skirt enabled complex steps to be seen, and maybe even a glimpse of her knees.

Pulcinella was a servant who hailed from Naples. His costume always included a hunchback. His mask is closely identified with his name, which means “young turkey or chicken.”

Hausmaler-Decorated Porcelain
Hausmaler is the term given to freelance decorators who flourished in central Europe and Holland between about 1650 and 1750.  These independent artists specialized in enamel painting on glass, faïence, and Chinese, Meissen and Du Paquier porcelain, which they acquired by fair means or foul. Hausmaler were able to respond quickly to the demands of their clients, who could order custom decoration in the latest European styles. The Gardiner Museum’s collection of Hausmaler-decorated porcelain was largely assembled by George and Helen Gardiner in the early 1980s. It is the most comprehensive collection of this type of decoration on porcelain in North America, with particular strengths in porcelain decorated in Augsburg, Bayreuth, Bohemia, Dresden and Vienna as well as in Holland.

The tradition of painting in monochrome black enamel, known as Schwarzlot, was introduced on glass and faience in the mid-17th in Nuremberg, and spread to smaller centers in Bohemia and Silesia. In the early 18th century, Hausmaler artists used the same technique to paint on porcelain. Two artists are particularly associated with this type of decoration: Ignaz Preissler (b.1676) who worked in Breslau and in Krondstadt; and Ignaz Bottengruber (dates unknown), who worked in Breslau and Vienna. Several other hands are discernible and it is likely that there were a number of Hausmaler artists who used this style. Schwarzlot decoration was also done at the factory of Du Paquier in Vienna

The accomplished painter of this tankard has yet to be identified. Similar work, signed G.L. and dated 1728, is known on a beaker and saucer, not in the Gardiner collection. It may be that this artist worked in either Bayreuth or Vienna.

Augsburg was home to another important Hausmaler workshop: that of Johann Auffenwerth (d. 1728) and his daughters Anna Elizabeth Wald (b. 1696) and Sabina Auffenwerth (b. 1706).
Anna Elizabeth and Sabina are the first documented female Hausmaler artists. Sabina decorated a Meissen tea service to celebrate her marriage to Isaac Heinrich Hosennestel on December 13, 1731. This milk jug is part of that service.

Scent Bottles
The Gardiner Museum holds a unique collection of 107 scent bottles produced across Europe, with a particular focus on factories located around London where they were a specialty. At a time when clean water was scarce and used sparingly, perfume was used to suggest cleanliness. Perfume was a symbol of luxury, a sign of rank and social distinction. In addition to being worn on the self, it was added to gloves, items of clothing, bed linens and cosmetics. The Gardiner’s collection illustrates the range of playful forms that scent bottles espoused, including animals, flowers and figures of lovers. Some examples present multiple containers for different fragrances, small boxes to store beauty patches, mirrors under the base, and rich gold mounts that enhanced the value of the object. A staple of elegance, these little luxuries were appreciated by men and women, and were kept on a dressing table or in a pocket. Scent bottles were a personal interest of Helen Gardiner who established the collection.

Exotic Bird

This scent bottle shaped as a bouquet of flowers, is also a patch box. Patches or beauty spots, came into fashion in the late 17th century. They were placed on the face, neck and chest to hide imperfections and highlight the whiteness of the skin. Called mouches (French for flies), being the size of a fly’s wing, they were made of black taffeta or velvet, and could adopt fanciful shapes such as hearts or crescents. Placing patches was an art; each position had a name evoking a range of flirtatious messages: “the passionate” near the eye,“the majestic” on the forehead, or “the discreet” below the lower lip.

If you were to turn this bottle, you would find another masked face. This is Janus, Roman god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duatlity, doorways, passages and endings. He is usually shown with two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past.

Perfume had numerous uses: Neroli, made from bitter orange blossoms, scented gloves; Orris root, which smelt of violets, perfumed hair powder; burning pastilles of perfume or potpourri refreshed living spaces. Impervious porcelain was an ideal medium for tiny, exquisite perfume bottles that were often given as tokens of love or affection.

Playful Monkeys

"Provider" for the Monastery

Bottle in the shape of a flower with two love birds on the finial

Shepherdess with a lamb

Gardiner Museum
Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Translate with Google