For a long time, porcelain was imported into Europe from Asia, obtaining values on the market comparable to gold. In 1708, alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger discovered the formula for hard porcelain. As a result, Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and Böttger’s employer, allowed for the first porcelain manufacturer to be established in Meissen. The alchemist and his colleague at the factory were prohibited from traveling in order to prevent the spread of the formula. But by 1718, an arcanist fled from Saxony and smuggled the formula to Vienna, where another manufacturer was developed – Augarten, the first competitor of the Meissen porcelain.
Porcelain production in Meissen specialized early on in figurines, which were status symbols of the wealthy upper class at this time. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, production methods and tastes changed. The porcelain figures soon gained the notorious reputation of being a mass-produced form of kitsch. After a visit to the Meissen factory, Goethe wrote that “it is bizarre that one finds very little there that one would like to display in one’s own household.” On view “are only items which are undesirable and no longer sought after, of which there are not only one, but hundreds and thousands.”
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