Europe’s first hard-paste porcelain manufactory was established at Meissen in 1710, a year after the secret to producing Chinese porcelain was discovered. Under Augustus the Strong’s royal patronage, Meissen demonstrated Saxony’s scientific and artistic achievements, producing fine porcelain pieces which were admired by the courts of Europe and regularly presented as diplomatic gifts.
Although Meissen’s early tea bowls originally copied Chinese forms, the manufactory quickly incorporated handles in order to cater to Western preferences. This porcelain teacup and saucer is decorated in the manner of Meissen porcelain decorator Johann Gregorius Höroldt, and features chinoiserie figures brewing tea, surrounded by flowering shrubs and flying insects. Meissen’s great artistic period began in 1720 with the appointment of Höroldt as chief painter. He was instrumental in the introduction of a wide range of enamel colours and the discovery of durable gilding, which became a prominent feature of Meissen’s decoration. Höroldt also introduced specific decorative schemes based on overtly exotic scenes inspired by Chinese and Japanese art, which were at the height of fashion in the early 18th century. The celebrated collection of Höroldt’s chinoiserie pattern sheets has survived as the so-called Schulz Codex, which was used by most Meissen decorators from the 1720s to the end of the 19th century.