This piece, with its depiction of a 18th Century social event at first glance looks similar to 18th & 19th century pieces by the Meissen porcelain works in Germany, but it is actually a 20th century “Dresden Lace” figurine made after World War Two.
One thing that leads new collectors of porcelain figurines down the wrong path is judging a figurine’s vintage by its style, rather than other indicators of production dates. A piece depicting an18th-century social event, like the one above, at first glance looks similar to 18th & 19th-century pieces by the Meissen porcelain works in Germany. It to assume such would be an error. The piece is actually a 20th-century “Dresden Lace” figurine made after the Second World War.
The marking on this piece is that of the Aelteste Volkstedter pottery, the particular mark being used after 1945. The Volkstedter pottery is the oldest manufacturer in Thuringia that is still in operation.
The name “Dresden” is used after the fact that most of these Lace figurines were made in Dresden, Germany. During the late 19th-century until World War Two, there were a number of potteries and more than 200 decorating studios operating in Dresden, producing decorative china and figurines in the style of the world famous Meissen company, located not far away. Some companies even went as far as copying the Meissen factory company “crossed sword” markings or using similar markings until lawsuits by Meissen forced them to adopt marks of their own.
Turning pieces like this over and looking for markings should always be the first thing one does, rather than judge them by their style. The marking on this piece is that of the Aelteste Volkstedter pottery, used after 1945. The Volkstedter pottery is the oldest manufactory in Thuringia that is still in operation, the company going through several mergers, bankruptcies and takeovers dating back to the 1760s. While not mass-produced in the modern sense, these figurines have been made in great numbers since the late 19th century and still survive in huge numbers.
The lace used on these figures on cuffs, ruffles and skirts is actually real lace that was soaked in a porcelain slurry. When fired it the kiln, the lace burns off, leaving the porcelain that fused with it intact. Always carefully examine these lace figures before you purchase one, as porcelain lace is very prone to damage, which often goes unnoticed until after the sale. Damaged examples sell for a good deal less than those in very good condition, in most cases less than half of a similar example in undamaged condition.
An example like the above Dresden Lace piece, in good condition, currently sells at auction in the $350 to $500 range.
Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.
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