Tastes and Collecting: Augustus II & The Japanese Palace

Dutch Dollhouse Culture 1-5

Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland greatly patronised the decorative arts as a matter of kingly acquisitions and the cultural flourishing of Dresden. Here, his investment across various residences was in accord with the extravagance of Baroque court life and a symbol of power. Augustus the Strong’s establishment of the exquisitely gilded Green Vault in 1723 demonstrates the ruler’s consideration for showcasing, entailing that a degree of concern was given to the monarchical collections acquired and their display.

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Louis XIV welcomes the Elector of Saxony, Frederick Augustus II to Fontainebleau, September Oil on canvas.

Here, we can also identify the growing fashion for Chinoiserie, a mode evident in Augustus’s schemes to house his extensive range in porcelain and ceramics. Boasting around 20,000 articles, many of these pieces were East Asian examples: Encompassing blue-and-white, famille verte, Dehua porcelain and Yixing stoneware – as listed in an inventory of 1721. Interestingly, the entries are classified according to considerations of colour and type, which played a role in the assignment of porcelain to various rooms within a palace converted for the purposes of display.

Porzellansammlung

The Japanese Palace, Dresden.

For this task, Augustus altered a building on the right bank of the Elbe River in Dresden, renaming this Dutch Palace as The Japanese Palace for what would become in itself essentially a “porcelain palace”. Stöber notes that within this context, Chinese porcelain was not appreciated individually, but rather as a whole given its display in large quantities on ornamental shelves and mantlepieces.

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Augustus acquired, selected and displayed porcelain as an attractive addition to the overall aesthetic and to harmonise the interior space. Indeed, the porcelain within the Japanese Palace was assembled and arranged according to colour schemes, in accord with the various other elements at play of the particular room. Features taken into account not only included the colour of the porcelain, but also the wood panelling, textiles and how these complement one another in an attractive, synthesised manner:

For example, white Dehua was shown in cabinets for its own radiance and figures and vessels were shown against walls lacquered and decorated in red and gold. The colour combination of white, red and gold had both imperial and oriental connotations which worked to enhance the impression given of great Baroque spectacle.

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The Green Vault, Dresden.

Whilst East Asian pieces were assigned to the lower floor of the Japanese Palace, the upper floor  was devoted to Meissen’s own native porcelain production. Here, fascination with the Chinese porcelain amassed spurned replication and, the Meissen factory, by official degree in 1710, was tasked with supplementing Augustus’s tastes through patterns provided for further manufacture.

Porzellansammlung

The Japanese Palace, Dresden.

The Meissen companies contribution to The Japanese Palace demonstrates the height of Baroque spectacle through porcelain: A life-size menagerie of bird and animal figures of exotic and fantastic inclination was on order and consecutively delivered from 1730, to be exhibited in a gallery, mirroring and elaboration on its Chinese counterparts. Augustus II’s porcelain collection and the realisation of its display attests to how these pieces were covered and had an enduring quality, marked by his initiative and financial support within the trade.

For The Appetite for Chinese Porcelain in Britain, please follow this link

Sources Used: 

Ayers, John, Blanc de Chine: History and Connoisseurship Reviewed (Routledge, 2013).

Weideger, Paula, ‘Treasures from the vault’, Financial Times [August 19, 2006], http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/bab3b746-2f1e-11db-a973-0000779e2340.html#axzz42PGGCdHA [accessed 11 February 2017].

Cassidy-Geiger, Maureen, Fragile Diplomacy (Yale University Press, 2007).

Corbin, Donna, ‘A Royal Passion: Meissen and Asian Porcelain from Augustus the Strong’s Japanese Palace’, Philadelphia Museum of Art [December 18, 2010], http://www.philamuseum.org/ exhibitions/741.html [accessed 11 February 2017].

Editors, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Splendour of Dresden Five Centuries of Art Collecting (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1978).

Ströber, Eva, ‘Dehua Porcelain in the Collection of Augustus the Strong in Dresden’, in Blanc de Chine: History and Connoisseurship Reviewed, ed by J. Ayers (Routledge, 2013).

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