Continued from Tuesdays With Norwood: Porcelain Ballast – Part 3
Completely restored to favor, the young man admitted he had never possessed the secret of transmutation; he was formally forgiven and promptly appointed director of Europe’s first china factory. It was established near Dresden in a little village called Meissen and proved to be worth almost as much to Augustus as the Philosopher’s Stone would have been. Soon after full production got underway in 1713, the export market for Meissen figurines alone ran into the millions. In a letter of 1746, Horace Walpole grumbled about the new fashion in table decoration at the banquets of the English nobility: “Jellies, biscuits, sugar, plums, and cream have long since given way to harlequins, gondoliers, Turks, Chinese, and shepherdesses of Saxon China.” Teapots and teacups were also produced in ever increasing quantities.
Industrial espionage spread the secret of porcelain manufacture beyond the Germanies during the 1740s, and in 1751 fifteen English entrepreneurs joined together to found the Worchester Royal Porcelain Works. To the chagrin of every prince and duke in France lavishing patronage on a little porcelain works of his own, the King’s beloved Madame De Pompadour decided to bestow hers on a little factory located near Versailles at Sèvres. Louis XV bought it to please her in 1759 and, just to make sure it would prosper, ordered the royal chinaware made there. When in need of money the king sometimes forced the courtiers at Versailles to buy quantities of Sèvres at extortionate prices.
The English porcelain firms of the eighteenth century kept experimenting with the formulae filched from the Continent and it would be interesting indeed to know how Mr. J. Spode first hit upon the idea of using the ingredient that distinguishes English from all other porcelains–the ashes of burned bones. Yes, Virginia, bone china is rightly so-called. And from the beginning, the mainstay of the production at Worchester, Chelsea, Spode, Limoges, and all the other centers of china making in Europe was the tea equipage.