Meissen Porcelain Blücher
In the 1960s, during a visit from the Director of the Meissen factory, the Wellington Museum was gifted a Blücher on horseback, which remains today in its archives.
Manufactured after the Second World War, the figurine represents what is known as “Meissen porcelain”. This label encompasses the items produced by several German factories within the Saxony region from the early 18th century.
Saxony porcelain used kaolin (white clay) originating from mines in the north-west of the city of Meissen. The manufacturing technique, first used in China in the 12th century, involved firing the clay at 1200°c. Europeans following the silk route carried home with them this Oriental porcelain which commanded such a high price that alchemists endeavoured to discover the recipe!
It wasn’t until the early 18th century that the mystery of the secret ingredient (kaolin) was solved by Friedrich Böttger (1682–1719) in Meissen.
Subsequently, other factories would gradually master this new technique. In France, Sèvres, Paris and Limoges would specialise in production, while in Belgium, factories were founded in Tournai and Brussels.
So what’s the trick for telling porcelain apart from biscuit pottery or faïence? Place the item close to a light source. If the light passes through, it’s porcelain.
Our Blücher on horseback originates from the Meissen factory, which is certainly the most famous, whose work bore the symbol of two crossed swords. This famous trademark, known by enthusiasts as the “Marcolini star”, was designed under the management of Count Marcolini-Ferreti (1739–1814) from 1775 to 1814. This makes the trademark a contemporary of Wellington, Napoleon and … Blücher!
This rider demonstrates how significant a figure Blücher was within Germanic culture. He was the hero of the German nation which was becoming aware of itself following the abolition of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 and gradually becoming Germany.
Quentin Debbaudt, manager of the Wellington Museum collections
Hoffmann K, Das weisse Gold von Meissen, Bern, Scherz, 1989
Schneider K, Marcolini, oder wie man Günstling wird, Munich, Hanser, 2007
Schweitzer J, “Mémoires, mythes et relectures de la bataille de Leipzig en Allemagne de 1813 à 1871” in Revue d’Allemagne et des pays de langue allemande, 47-1, 2015, Pp. 185-194.
Sonneman R, Wachtler E, Meissen: la découverte de la porcelaine européenne en Saxe: J. F. Bottger, 1709-1736, Paris, Pygmalion, 1984