Ask a German the difference between “Dresden” and “Meissen”, and they’ll tell you “about 15 miles.” Ask us the same question, and we’ll say “no difference.” That’s because we’re talking about porcelain…porcelain in Germany.

Elector Frederick Augustus I (King August the Strong to his friends) planned to make his home in Dresden the most important royal residence in the world. He set out to discover the secret to creating Chinese “white gold” – hard paste porcelain.

In 1710, the King’s first factory – the Royal Saxon Porcelain Manufactory – was built fifteen miles from Dresden in the city of Meissen. But since Dresden was the cultural and economic center of Saxony, most Meissen porcelain was sold “out of town” in Dresden.

In a very short time, buyers began to incorrectly refer to their purchases as “Dresden china.” Dresden dinnerware was all the rage, but it was the Dresden lace figurines that were truly coveted. “Dresden lace” was created by a process in which real lace was dipped in liquid porcelain and then applied to the figures by hand. The result was a stunningly delicate appearance that was almost indistinguishable from soft fabric.

Dresden Lace Figure from Marks4Antiques.com

One Dark Night

Much of the work and the history of all the porcelain produced in Dresden and Meissen was destroyed in a massive Allied bombing raid during World War II. In a single night, most Dresden decorating studios were demolished along with many historical documents. The porcelain painting business never fully recovered.

This article is an excerpt from Brian and Leon’s book, Betcha Didn’t Know That, Vol. 1

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