Tea set

ARTIST / MAKER: Meissen porcelain factory (manufacturer)
DATE: ca. 1735 (made)
PLACE: Germany (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Hard-paste porcelain decorated in overglaze enamels and gilt

The secret of Chinese porcelain production was finally understood in Germany in 1708 and led to the growth of the European porcelain industry. The discovery of hard-paste porcelain is credited to the mathematician, physicist and physician Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus. Following his death, the alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger began producing porcelain at the Meissen porcelain manufactory, where this set was created. Each element of the tea service is decorated with mythical creatures painted in polychrome enamels in the manner of Adam Friedrich von Lowenfinck, a gifted pupil of the porcelain painter Johann Gregorius Höroldt (1696-1775) who worked at Meissen from 1727 to 1736. Inspired by the colours and decoration on Chinese and Japanese export wares in the porcelain collection of Augustus the Strong, Lowenfinck was responsible for introducing mythical creatures to the manufactory’s portfolio of decorative scenes. This set belonged to Tommaso Prospero Lambertini (1675-1758) who was elected as Pope Benedict XIV in 1740. It may have been one of the gifts from Augustus III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, to Pope Benedict XIV who visited Saxony in 1743. It illustrates not only the importance and value of Meissen porcelain as a diplomatic gift but also the strong ties between Rome and the newly Catholic ruling dynasty in Saxony. Pope Benedict XIV was a great scholar of the arts and it was he who laid the foundations for the celebrated Vatican museum.