Can You Identify this Mark?
Do you recognize this famous mark?
This mark is one of many marks used by perhaps the most well known ceramics manufacturers in the world. This mark is a mark of Meissen, the first European company to make porcelain out of hard paste. Meissen production started officially in 1710 and since then, the Meissen factory has made some of the world’s most sought after decorative wares. Our WorthPoint Worthopedia has over 93,000 listings for Meissen products! Read all about the history of the company and take your ceramics knowledge to the next level.
Another version of the Meissen mark–the two swords crossed, with no dot.
The Chinese and Japanese benefited greatly from the export of hard paste porcelain to Europe during the seventeenth and early eighteenth century, a trade controlled by the Dutch East India Company. German and French royalty and aristocracy encouraged chemists to duplicate the formula. In 1708, Ehrenfried Walter von Tschirnhaus, a mathematician and scientist, achieved success. When he died in October of that year, Johann Friedrick Bötttger continued his work.
Böttinger, an alchemist, claimed he found a formula to produce gold from worthless materials. King Augustus II of Poland placed him in protective custody. Within a week of von Tschirnhaus’ death, Böttinger and several Dutch co-workers claimed they refined von Tschirnhaus’ formula and manufactured hard paste porcelain in the Chinese fashion. In 1709, King Augustus II established the Royal-Polish and Electoral-Saxon Porcelain Manufactory at Albrechtsburg castle in Meissen. Production started in 1710.
The initial formula actually produced a hard, red stoneware that could be cast in finely detailed molds. It was not until 1713 that a hard paste white body porcelain was produced. Johann Gregorius Höroldt introduced enameled painting in 1723. The color palette quickly expanded. Within a short period, decorative motives included animals, Chinese-motifs, country scenes, flowers, landscapes, port scenes, and more. Japan’s Arta kiln Kakemon vases were copied.
King Augustus II jealously guarded the “white gold” porcelain formula. Workers learned only a part of the process. His success was limited. By 1717, the formula was being used in Vienna. By 1760, over 30 European porcelain manufacturers were producing hard paste (kaolin based) and soft-paste (frit based) porcelain.
This gorgeous peacock is a Kandler design. It sold for $510 in 2015.
Johann Jacob Kirchner created the first larger-scale statues and figurines. When he resigned in 1733, his assistant Johann Joachim Kändler became the principal modeler. He introduced the concept of a series of small sculptures focused on a central theme. Kändler favored the rococo style over the previously used baroque style. Assisted by Johann Friedrich Eberlain and Peter Reinecke, Kändler worked until his death in 1775.
In 1756 during the Seven Years War, the Meissen factory came under the control of Frederick I of Prussia. He relocated some of the Meissen artisans to his Königliche Porzellan Manufactor in Berlin. After the war ended, C. W. E Dietrich of the Dresden Academy became art director and Michel-Victor Acier from France the modeler. They introduced Neoclassical styles to Meissen. Pieces from Sevres inspired many of the Meissen pieces.
In 1774, Count Camillo Marcolini became director at Meissen, a position he held until 1814. He shifted the stylistic approach to that of Louis XVI. A period of decline occurred under the new director Von Opell. In 1830, ownership of the Meissen factory reverted to the State of Saxony. Kuhn directed Meissen from 1833 to 1870 and was succeeded by Raithel. Raithel increased exports to the United States. Brunnermann led Meissen from 1895 to 1901.
This Meissen Art Nouveau porcelain figure group after the model by Paul Helmig sold for $4000 in 2015.
Ernst August Leuferitz reworked many of the rococo molds in the nineteenth century, often adding lace work details. Beginning in 1903, Erich Höstel reworked the molds again, restoring many to their earlier form. Art Nouveau designs were introduced.
In 1933, the State of Saxony restricted the artistic license at Meissen. Emphasis was placed on the continued production of pieces from older molds.
Following World War II, the Soviet Union confiscated Meissen’s factory equipment as war reparations. By 1946, the Meissen workers using older methods restored partial production. The company became a joint stock company. All production was sold to the Soviet Union.
When the German Democratic Republic was created in 1950, the firm returned to German ownership as the “people owned” VEB Meissen Porzellan. Exports were worldwide. Meissen alternated between the production of its traditional pieces and producing mass-production ceramics. In 1969, Karl Petermann became head of Meissen and returned it focus to its traditional roots.
Following German reunification in 1990, the State of Saxony once again became the owner of the company.
What to Look For
Collectors divide Meissen’s history into distinct periods based on who owned and/or managed the company. Most focus on eighteenth and early nineteenth century pieces. Design styles such as baroque, Chinese, rococo, neoclassical, Greek Revival, and Art Nouveau are another preferred collecting method.
This Meissen Rococo porcelain pendulum floral mantel clock sold for $7000 in 2017.
Among Meissen figurine collectors, Kändler’s figurines in pure white or decorated are viewed as the best of Meissen. Full series such as the Monkey Band command a premium price.
It is critical to understand that Meissen kept many of it molds in production for decades and occasionally centuries. The mark and painting scheme are critical to dating a piece.
Meissen manufactured its first tableware services in the 1720s. Kändler introduced color decorations in the 1740s. The company’s Swan pattern was first made between 1737 and 1743. Höroldt designed the Blue Onion pattern in 1739. Other popular patterns include Court Dragon, Red Dragon, and Vine-leaf.
Collector interest in post-1970s Meissen commemorative and holiday wares is minimal.
The Meissen factory mark is among the most copied ceramic mark. Robert Röntgen’s Marks on German, Bohemian, and Austrian Porcelain: 1710 to the Present, Updated & Revised Edition (Schiffer Publishing, 1997) devotes 20 pages to pseudo-Meissen marks. Do not trust a mark to authenticate a piece.
Early Meissen marks, almost always found in underglaze blue, included:
“AR” monogram for Augustus Rex.
This Meissen plate marked with the Augustus Rex mark sold for $595 in March 2018.
“KPF” monogram for Königliche Porzellan Fabrrk.
“KPM” monogram for Königliche Porzellan-Manufactur.
“MPM” monogram for Meissenr Porzellan Manufactur.
These marks were eventually replaced by the famous crossed sword mark from the arms of the Elector of Saxony as the Arch-Marshal of the Holy Roman Empire in 1720. Official decree in 1731 made the mark mandatory. Use, quality, and location were haphazard. It was not until the “dot” period that the mark became uniform in quality.
Crossed swords with guards, straight blades introduced in 1722.
Crossed swords with guards, straight blades introduced in 1722.
Crossed swords with guards, curved blades with dot between guards, introduced in 1763. Also the same year marked the beginning of impressing mold numbers into the bases of pieces.
Crossed swords with guards, curved blades, with five-pointed star below guards, introduced in 1774.
Crossed swords with guards, curved blades with slight turn at bottom, slightly curved guards, introduced in 1815
Crossed swords with guards, curved blades, dot between tops of swords. introduced in 1924.
Crossed sword with guards, curved blades, slightly curved guards, introduced in 1934.
Script “Meissen”, introduced in 1972.
Crossed swords with guards above script “Meissen”, introduced in 1972. Multiple variations of this mark with additional wording.
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