Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Ceramics, Room 145

Tankard

ca. 1710-1713 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

The story of how Meissen became the first European ceramic factory to manuacture true porcelain begins in 1701 with the arrival of the young alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger in Saxony. Imprisoned by Augustus, Böttger failed to synthesize gold, but his potential was recognized by Walter von Tschirnhaus, a scientist interested in minerals and optics. Working under intense secrecy, and joined by a geologist, they attempted to discover the 'arcana', or 'secret knowledge', of the manufacture of porcelain. Correctly identifying the ingredients and using lenses to achieve the necessary high temperatures in experiments, the trio succeeded in two truly remarkable achievements. The first, in 1707, was the invention a dense red stoneware inspired by Chinese Yixing wares, of which this polished tankard is a very fine example. The second was more momentous: the discovery in 1708 of the composition and firing conditions for porcelain. His health destroyed by work and incarceration, Böttger let slip some of Meissen's secrets shortly before his death, an indiscretion that ultimately led to the establishment of a European porcelain industry

Object details

Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Böttger stoneware, polished and mounted with silver-gilt
Brief description
Tankard and cover of polished Böttger stoneware with a strap handle and slightly domed cover, and mounted with a silver-gilt hinge, Meissen porcelain factory, Meissen, ca. 1710-1713.
Physical description
Tankard and cover of polished Böttger stoneware with a strap handle and slightly domed cover, and mounted with a silver-gilt hinge with a bull thumb-piece.
Dimensions
  • Height: 21.6cm
Credit line
From the Arthur and Hilde Weiner Collection. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the V&A, 2006
Object history
Formerly in the Arthur and Hilde Weiner Collection.
Summary
The story of how Meissen became the first European ceramic factory to manuacture true porcelain begins in 1701 with the arrival of the young alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger in Saxony. Imprisoned by Augustus, Böttger failed to synthesize gold, but his potential was recognized by Walter von Tschirnhaus, a scientist interested in minerals and optics. Working under intense secrecy, and joined by a geologist, they attempted to discover the 'arcana', or 'secret knowledge', of the manufacture of porcelain. Correctly identifying the ingredients and using lenses to achieve the necessary high temperatures in experiments, the trio succeeded in two truly remarkable achievements. The first, in 1707, was the invention a dense red stoneware inspired by Chinese Yixing wares, of which this polished tankard is a very fine example. The second was more momentous: the discovery in 1708 of the composition and firing conditions for porcelain. His health destroyed by work and incarceration, Böttger let slip some of Meissen's secrets shortly before his death, an indiscretion that ultimately led to the establishment of a European porcelain industry
Collection
Accession number
C.22-2006

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Record createdApril 21, 2009
Record URL
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