Just a sampling of the 17.200 objects in the Wiener Porzellanmanufaktur, first granted the imperial privilege in 1718, on display at the Museum of Applied Arts for my first art group outing of the new season a couple of weeks ago, to recognize 300 years of the second-oldest porcelain manufacturer in Europe.
Meissen in Germany is the oldest, beating Vienna by less than a decade. I toured the factory in 1999; those 35mm snaps are boxed somewhere in a Northern Virginia storage facility.
Our own bone china, also in storage is Noritake, Japanese porcelain. It is interesting that we chose Japanese porcelain, but that is a chapter best saved for the book.
Moving along. The Museum of Applied Arts is a grand building.
I will not weave the lengthy tale that our talented guide wove regarding the Viennese adoption and evolution of luxury tableware. Instead, just pieces depicting the cultural influences of China on Viennese tableware.
Functionality was a thing in imperial 1800s, too. No surprises about what might be roasting in this dish.
“Stabilizers” so that staff would not spill a drop of tea when serving.
Not exactly tableware, but a rather fancy chamber pot.
Tiny cups adorned with warblers, to sip whatever might be in the elegant bowl.
The Biedermeier Period was also well represented.
As was my grandmother’s curio cabinet, though I was able to position much closer to this display that I had ever been permitted at my grandparent’s home. 😂
Empress Maria Theresa even had a hand at painting her own porcelain. ‘Tis a good thing she did not give up her day job to pursue life as an artist, just saying.
Most fascinating to me, the porcelain paintings. Stunning still life painted on slabs of porcelain.
The porcelain world was not without its polemics, I also learned. To quote the Augarten Porcelain Manufactory:
“Rapid growth in competition at home and abroad finally forced the famous company to close down in 1864. Its extensive collection of designs was donated to the Museum of Art and Industry, which is now the Museum of Applied Art. An important chapter in Austrian history had come to an end – or so it seemed.”
In 1923 porcelain manufacturing was reopened in Augarten Castle as the Wiener Porzellanmanufaktur Augarten. One of their signature pieces remains the famous Lippizaner of the Spanish Riding School, a nod to the former imperial days. Augarten, as well, has a special “300 Year” exhibit running, and one that I will drop in on just to bring this story full circle.