Item #4293 A manuscript sample book of porcelain cups. PORCELAIN.
A manuscript sample book of porcelain cups.
A manuscript sample book of porcelain cups.
A manuscript sample book of porcelain cups.
A manuscript sample book of porcelain cups.
A manuscript sample book of porcelain cups.
A manuscript sample book of porcelain cups.
A manuscript sample book of porcelain cups.
A manuscript sample book of porcelain cups.
687 fashion statements

A manuscript sample book of porcelain cups. [Volkstedt / Rudolstadt, Germany, 1812].

Oblong 4to (179 x 231 mm). [81] leaves, in 10 parts, each separated by 2 blank leaves, containing 687 finely painted designs for handle-less cups (coupes or Koppchen) decorated in gold paint, all but 78 with watercolor, the cups numbered in red ink with sequential numbering for each section (see contents below); plus 42 unfinished and unnumbered cups (outlined in pen-and-ink and wash but undecorated). Laid paper watermarked Van Der Ley with post horn in crowned shield (cf. Churchill p. 37, dated to 1802; similar to Heawood 2749), the same paper used for the endpapers. The ten parts separated by leather gilt index tabs, numbered 2-10; two blank leaves at the end of each part (not included in the leaf count). In fine condition (minor crease in leaf with samples 199-207; green paint scribbles on samples 17, 72 and 80, small smudges or abrasion from color adhered to facing page on samples 1230, 1233, and 1236, a couple of smudged numbers). Bound in contemporary tree sheep, sides with gold-tooled ribbon borders, smooth spine, gold-tooled and with onlaid red and green paper labels: the larger label fragmentary but legible: “[Hol]zapfel Greiner in [Rudo]l]stadt,” the smaller label with date 1812, gilt edges (corners rubbed, small hole near upper joint). Provenance: the Greiner and Holzapfel porcelain manufacturing firm, based in Volkstedt, Rudolstadt, Thuringia, active from 1800 to 1822; childish doodles in pencil (including date 1850) on 3 blank leaves.***

A spectacular and extensive manuscript sample catalogue of porcelain cups, from Volkstedt, the first center of porcelain manufacturing in Thuringia. Unusual for the quantity, variety and quality of its painted designs, the album provides a stunning glimpse into early 19th-century fashions in ornamental design, in an important provincial center of German porcelain production. In a mutual dynamic of influence, porcelain reflected the decorative arts as a whole: “just as porcelain was made to enhance the beauty of rooms, rooms were designed, like a well-known example in Schönbrunn palace, to enhance the appearance of collections of porcelain. It is a question whether fashion in porcelain reflected changes in the fashion of interior decoration or led them” (Reed, p. 290).

The vogue for small cups without handles, known in Germany as Koppchen (or sometimes Turkenküppchen) arrived in Europe soon after the first coffee beans. At first coffee connoisseurs used imported Chinese white porcelain, but after Johann Friedrich Böttger discovered how to make hard-paste porcelain in the early 18th century, these lovely objects began to be produced first in Meissen, and then in other German centers, each with its own variations on the secret technique (each producer used slightly different local materials to supply the necessary fusible ingredient). Similar small cups came to be used for tea as well, usually with matching saucers and platters. 

The central German region of Thuringia, rich in woods, water, and kaolin clay, and already the home of a thriving glass-blowing industry, became a prominent center of small but high-quality porcelain manufactures. The earliest hard-paste porcelain factory there was founded in Sitzendorf in 1760 by George Heinrich Macheleid, who had received an exclusive privilege for the production of porcelain from Johann Friedrich, Prince of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. He moved the factory to Volkstedt in 1762, and took on other partners, including Johann Gotthelf Greiner, and the latter’s cousin, J. Gottfried Greiner, an experienced glassmaker; but by 1767 Macheleid, who did not profit from his invention, had transferred his privilege to the Erfurt businessman Christian Nonne. During the next 30 years, the factory’s management was somewhat unstable, until in 1799 it was acquired by Carl Gottfried Holzapfel, a Coburg banker, and his brother-in-law Wilhelm Heinrich Emmanuel Greiner, yet another member of the large Greiner family, which owned, at various times, all but one of the nine porcelain factories in Thuringia. The majority of these Thuringian factories “produced only Geschirr, or useful wares,” but three of the factories, at “Kloster Veilsdorf, Volkstedt, and Gotha, did exceedingly good work; their paste was excellent and their staffs of modelers and painters were worthy of the great factories” (McClellan, p. 32).

Greiner and Holzapfel ran the factory until 1822; this catalogue was therefore produced at what was probably the height of their activity. Sales did not come easily: they were “at first unsatisfactory. They were mainly carried out through buyers in Erfurt and other neighboring towns, at the Leipzig and Frankfurt fairs, as well as through auctions and lotteries in many regions, even faraway ones, demanding not insignificant efforts and expenses” (Der Absatz war ... zunächst unbefriedigend. Er erfolgte vornehmlich durch Kaufleute in Erfurt und weitere benachbarten Städten, über die Messen in Leipzig und Frankfurt a. M., sowie Auktionen und Lotterien in zahlreichen, selbst entlegenden Gegenden bei einem nicht unerheblichen Mühe und Kostenaufwand — Scherf, p. 40.) Thus display catalogues such as this one would have traveled far, to be shown to potential buyers throughout Germany, ensuring that they would wear out and eventually be discarded. The survival of this catalogue may be due to its never having been completed.

Painters of porcelain, like all the artisans involved in its production, had to be highly skilled. In the early years of porcelain production in Germany they were often so-called Hausmäler, painters who worked from their homes or small workshops and who were not contracted to a single manufacturer; but by the end of the century this had changed, and the porcelain artists — often women* — were regular employees of the factories. Whether the artist who executed the present delicate sample drawings was also one of the firm’s in-house porcelain painters is unknown, but the drawings were carried out with the greatest delicacy and skill. The cups themselves, all carefully highlighted with gray wash shadowing, were drawn first, as is evident from the 42 unfinished cups; the artist then added the decoration, perhaps in stages, painting the decorative gold rims first. Unlike the figurative work that is seen on much German porcelain of the period, the designs are purely floral and geometric. A very few examples, comprising the first 36 patterns of part 1, repeat the same design with different colors; otherwise each model shows a different design. All the rims are painted in gold, and all include extensive (and a few, exclusive) use of gold paint in the main designs of the sides also. Particularly striking are the 180 dramatic dark blue cups decorated in gold and silver paint of series 8 and 9, and, in series 10, the cups combining the dark and light patterns of the previous series. These dark cups evoke the chinoiserie fashions of the end of the 18th century (cf. Reed, p. 287).

- Part 1: 45 leaves containing 9 models each, numbered 1-405, a 46th leaf containing nos. 406 and 407, the rest unfinished (showing the cups only).
- Part 2: 5 leaves, containing sample nos. 501-545, all but the last, which has 2 gold sprigs, with gold decoration around the rims only (probably as intended, though they may be unfinished).
- Part 3: 3 leaves, sample nos. 601-627. 13 cups are decorated in gold only.
- Part 4: 2 leaves, sample nos. 701-718, 3rd leaf with 719 and 720, the remaining 7 samples unfinished (undecorated). 9 cups in gold only.
- Part 5: 3 leaves, sample nos. 801-824, the other two cups on the 3rd leaf undecorated.
- Part 6: 4 leaves, sample nos. 901-930, 7 cups in gold only, the 4th leaf with 6 cups undecorated.
- Part 7: 4 leaves, sample nos. 1001-1034, 4 cups in gold only. The last 2 cups on 4th leaf unfinished. (The caption numbers [not the cups] of 1033 and 1034 marked or crossed out in pencil.)
- Part 8: 4 leaves, sample nos. 1101-1128: gold and silver on dark blue grounds, plus 8 unfinished cups.
- Part 9: 7 leaves, sample nos. 1201-1255: gold and silver on dark blue grounds, plus 8 unfinished cups, with base painting but undecorated, one scribbled on.
- Part 10: 2 leaves, sample nos. 1301-1316, combining floral designs on white grounds with gold / silver on black grounds, leaf 2 with 2 unfinished cups.

Bibliography: H. Scherf, Thüringer Porzellan (Leipzig, 1985), pp. 37-40 and passim; Lauterbach, ed., Volkstedter Porzellan, 1760-1800 (Rudolfstadt, 1999), passim; Irma Hoyt Reed,“The European Hard-Paste Porcelain Manufacture of the Eighteenth Century,” The Journal of Modern History 8, no. 3 (1936): 273–96; G. McClellan, The McClellan Collection of German and Austrian Porcelain (New York, 1946), pp. 32-33; Pottery & Porcelain. A Handbook for Collectors, pp. 237-238.

* “Many women were employed for the work of painting, as they are now” (Reed, p. 288).
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