The History of Dresden Figurines
The name "Dresden" figurines is somewhat misleading when their true origin is considered. Even though they are called Dresden figurines, they were mostly manufactured in nearby Meissen. The figurines were then taken to Dresden to be sold, as Dresden was the capital city and the center of commerce and industry in Saxony. Dresden figurine history is therefore also Meissen history and vice versa.
Meissen was where the discovery of hard paste porcelain was made. This paste was used to manufacture the Dresden figurines. The manufacturing process involved handcrafted molds, which were air dried and baked. Real cotton lace was used to create the delicate pattern imprint that formed after the fabric lace was burned away. The final product was then glazed, baked and hand-painted before it underwent a final baking.
During the course of the 19th century, more than 40 competing studios produced Dresden figurines and other porcelain ware. The distinctive Dresden blue crown mark, which was registered in 1883, was used by four artists and studios in particular: Karl Richard Klemm, Donath & Co., Oswald Lorenz and Adolf Hamman. Between 1855 and 1944, other artists also used the crown logo, including Franziska Hirsch, Ambrosius Lamm, Carl Thieme and Helena Wolfsohn. Subsequently, Wolfsohn adapted the logo she used to that of the crown together with a scripted letter "D."
In the 19th century, there was a Rococo revival that influenced the designs of a wide range of fine porcelain products. Dinnerware, for example, was decorated with ornate patterns of foliage, flowers, fruits, shells and scrolls.
In 1920, the Meissen factory became a branch of Heubach Brothers in Lichte. Subsequently, it was sold to Albert Stahl & Co. in 1937.
The Irish Dresden company was established in Dromcolliher in County Limerick after World War II by the descendants of Anton Muller. Muller was a 19th century artist who set up a workshop in Volkstedt, East Germany, where he produced delicate porcelain lace figurines. His descendants preserved and perpetuated the fine craftsmanship of Muller, thus establishing the art of Dresden in Ireland. These products are also available for sale at the company website.
Dresden & Meissen Tours
In Dresden, the porcelain collection of the elector of Saxony, Augustus (1670 to 1733) is housed at the Zwinger Palace. Augustus founded the original Dresden porcelain factory in Meissen in 1710. Visitors can tour the factory to see firsthand how Dresden porcelain is made. There is also a two-story museum of collectibles that represent more than 300 years of fine porcelain production.
Antique Dresden figurines are highly collectible and in demand. They are extremely fragile and have to be handled with great care so that the very fancy "lace" that ornaments the figurines is preserved. For examples of the intricate Dresden lacework, see the Resource section.
Based in Northern California, Maureen Katemopoulos has been a freelance writer for more than 25 years. Her articles on travel, the arts, cuisine and history have appeared in publications such as "Stanislaus Magazine," "Orientations," "The Asia Magazine" and "The Peninsula Group Magazine." She holds a Baccalaureate degree in journalism from Stanford University.