Monday, July 14, 2014

Porcelain Addiction

Porcelain addiction.  It's a nasty little habit.  Figurines, china, coffee services with those dainty demitasse cups, I own all of it.  In June, the Vienna Porcelain Manufacturer Augarten opened their "Swinging Teatime" exhibit, showcasing porcelain design during the 1950s.

A very brief history of Augarten:   Wiener Porzellanmanufactur was the second hard paste porcelain factory in Europe (Meissen in Germany was first).  It was in business from 1718-1864, closed down and re-opened in 1923.  For porcelain collectors, look for the "Old Wien" markings, an upside down beehive underglaze and consult a reference book (or appraiser) to be sure you are not purchasing a reproduction.  The Augarten Museum is located in the baroque Augarten Park (2nd District) which is also home to the Vienna Boys Choir and a view to a couple of WWII triple A towers (anti-aircraft artillery).

Interestingly, the promotional brochure offers this description of the collection:  "the goal of 1950s design was to ban any kind of restriction or heaviness and promote an everyday culture filled with dynamic joie de vivre - to which porcelain was naturally destined to make its own special contribution"  Cynic that I am, my take away message is:  "the goal of post WWII Austrian culture was to forget the Nazi past ASAP, so Augarten created porcelain to reflect movement into a modern, more vibrant era."  I get it, when compared to the Nazi prescribed porcelain designs, this evolution in style was good for the spirits of the post war Austrian host and hostess.  During the war, Augarten came under control of the National Socialists and was tasked with developing a baroque service for Hitler.  At the same time, the National Socialist ideology embraced the "perfect heroism" of antiquity as both an ideology and design trend, therefore, recreation of a Roman ceramic "terra sigillata" or sealed earth led to the production of terra cotta looking porcelains.

 "Terra sigillata" porcelain from the National Socialist days

In contrast, porcelain designs of the 1950s brought forward pieces to celebrate color, style and social activities.

It was a special treat to tour the exhibit with my Mom, our Vienna visitor.  She probably did not realize that she was creating an addict while dragging her tween around places like the Lenox Factory and Flemington Glass or telling me that the Lladro figurines at Grandma's were made in Spain as I jetted off for Summer abroad in 1981.  My Mother-in-Law, Mary Lou, introduced me to the beauty of Rosenthal with her 1960s Bjorn Winblad pattern, Romance.  Perhaps at the core, it all started with the story of a Grandfather I never met, working the docks and bringing home several pieces of Wako's Golden Maple after a shipping crate "broke" open at the pier.   Decades later, while on a business trip, I was thrilled to find more Golden Maple in a San Diego antiques store and proudly gave Grandma more pieces for her set.

Now, if only I could afford a replica of Josef Hoffman's 1929 "Melon" service, form no. 15.  Hoffman (1870-1956) was an architect and member of the Vienna Secession and Wiener Werkstatte.  The Augarten Museum shop sells a "new" Melon service that will run you around 1,866 euros ($2,540).  Oh, plus the tray at 604 euros ($822).  It really isn't a "set" unless you have the matching tray, right?  And maybe four cups and saucers instead of two....just in case you have a larger group over for coffee....or one breaks.  Ugh.  I'm feeling a bit shaky.....I need a fix.....porcelain addiction can be very costly.  Let me know if you see this at a Yard Sale, will ya?

Original "Melon" service (partial) next to demitasse cups and saucers

Melon reproduction for sale.  Good thing it is in a locked case.

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