The origin of Meissen figures
The idea for making small figures in porcelain came from the sugar ornaments seen on fashionable dining tables all over Europe at the beginning of the 18th century. The sugar would be pressed into a mould to form figures, temples, gates, carriages, gardens, and many other forms. These were very expensive and, of course, ephemeral, since they could be eaten
The arrival of porcelain made these figures more permanent, and more valuable. Many porcelain figures — from those in pastoral scenes to depictions of street traders — were in fact designed as table decorations, and not made to sit in cabinets as they do today.
The figures could be satirical, mythological or allegorical, and were designed to convey information about their owners — their level of scholarship, their military prowess, or even their sense of humour.
Meissen identifying marks
The secret of porcelain manufacture was soon discovered by others. By 1760 about thirty porcelain factories had established themselves in Europe and thus it made it necessary for a marking system to be introduced to identify the original Saxon products. Several means of identifying Meissen were devised in the early years, mainly with a series of letters KPM; MPM; KPF, all painted on top of the glaze. It wasn’t until underglaze painting had been perfected at the factory that a forgery proof way of marking was found. Two crossed swords in cobalt blue under the glaze became the preferred mark of Meissen from 1731 and are still hand painted on today. A series of asterisks, dots and other symbols have been added to aid in the dating of wares.