Porcelain – known as “fine china” after the country it first came from.
The Chinese have been producing fine decorated porcelain for hundreds of years and it first came to Europe in the seventeenth century via the trade route of the Dutch East India Company. The Chinese manufacturers wouldn’t pass on their recipe for the production of porcelain to the west and so it became very coveted, representing great wealth and refinement in Europe. However in the 18th century the secret of “white gold” production was mastered in Europe. Known as White Gold because of the wealth it brought to those areas.
In the German state of Saxony Johann Botteger, an alchemist, experimented with the formula and with help of Dutch tile makers experienced in firing and painting, the first porcelain was made. At first production was restricted to factories set up by the German aristocracy, as the capital needed for the initial technology was so enormous, however by the middle of the 19th century there were over 22 factories
1710 Botteger moved to Albrechtsburg castle in Meissen, Saxony.
1747 Maximilian III Elector of Bavaria started a porcelain factory in Munich.
1760 Prussian King Frederick II founded the Royal Porcelain Factory in Berlin.
1814 Carolus Magnus Hutshenreuther founded a factory in Hohenburg.
1835 the Thuringian porcelain manufactory achieved world renown.
1889 Rosenthal opens its first factory in Selb, close to the Czech border.
1909 Max Pfeiffer started the factory Unterweissbacher Werkstätten.
1916 First production of porcelain in the Bavarian town of Windischeschenbach.
Rosenthal was returned to family ownership in 1950 and, following the fall of the iron curtain in 1992, all the factories in the eastern block became free market enterprises and flourish today.
Only Nymphenburg has consistently produced the very high quality porcelain pieces in Germany from 1761 to the present day for the open market.
For 275 years the Porcelain Manufacturer Nymphenburg has been producing figures and objects of the finest quality in just one location, the Nymphenburg Palace.
No other factory in the World still manufactures all its products entirely by hand; no automated process is used, therefore enabling it to produce unequalled delicacy and quality pieces. Power is still provided by the small river that runs through the estate, driving the belts and pulleys that run throughout the factory powering the potters’ wheels and mixing vats.
The raw materials of kaolin, feldspar and quartz take two days to mix to the right consistency perfected by an age old recipe. It is not bought in as a semi ready mix as in commercial enterprises. The production process is complicated and time consuming and an art in itself. Once the mix has been refined it is pressed into slabs and stored until ready for processing. The slabs are laid down for several years and only when ready are they then sent to the potters shops.
Turning and modelling
All plates, bowls and vases are hand made on a potter’s wheel and stamped with the Nymphenburg shield and potters initials.
All other products are cast in plaster moulds. There are thousands of different moulds kept in the moulding shop, each one is destroyed after just fifteen casts. Slip is poured into the mould and left to set. Each figure can be made of many different pieces from numerous moulds.
Once they are dried the potter assembles the pieces by hand using slip and a scalpel. Finally the details are added, any leaves and flowers, hands and facial expressions are added by the artist using his or her scalpel.
Each piece is fired at least twice if not three, four or five times at different temperatures. Following an initial low temperature firing a thin glaze is added and then fired again before it can go for decoration.
Underglaze painting is largely used on small figurines, it is best done to emphasise fur and feathers or a finely dressed figure. Finely graded shades of colour are brought out through various types of glaze. On glazed pieces, artists work without templates and an intricate item can take up to 3 weeks to paint. Powder paints are manufactured in the laboratory at Nymphenburg and these are then mixed with turpentine, rose and lavender oils before being applied. Paints are fused with the glaze during firing, changing the finished colour significantly.
Finishing can be with either platinum or 24ct gold which after the final firing need buffing. The final product is pure white translucent porcelain which contrasts with bright paints and polished gildin
The original Hutschenreuther porcelain company was opened in 1814 in the small town of Hohenburg in Bavaria. Carolus Magnus Hutschenreuther ( 1794 -1845 ) had been working for the Wallendorf factory and wanted to open the first privately owned porcelain factory in Germany. His aim was to manufacture porcelain second to none and to enhance the quality of his product by sourcing the very best artists, craftsmen, and sculptors from across the European cont