The type of ceramic employed for the objects on view in this exhibition was known in Europe as hard-paste porcelain. While an artificial, soft-paste porcelain had been developed in France in the seventeenth century, true, or hard-paste, porcelain—close in composition to porcelain from China—was developed in Dresden, Germany, in 1708, leading to the founding of the Meissen factory. While soft-paste porcelain remained in production at Sèvres throughout the eighteenth century, the factories in Vienna and Berlin produced only hard paste. By the early nineteenth century all the major European manufactories made only hard-paste porcelain, which is distinguished by its cool white color, translucency, thinness, and ability to withstand high firing temperatures.
Imperial Porcelain Manufactory, Vienna
Claudius Innocentius du Paquier founded a private porcelain enterprise in Vienna in 1718. Beset by financial misfortunes, it was taken over by Empress Maria Theresa in 1744, becoming the Imperial Porcelain Manufactory. It ceased operation in 1864.
The porcelain factory at Sèvres, located outside Paris, was established in 1740 at the Château de Vincennes to the southeast. Moving to larger quarters at Sèvres in 1756, it became the official royal manufactory in 1759 and remains active to this day.
Royal Porcelain Manufactory, Berlin
This factory, the Königlische Porzellan-Manufactur, is commonly known by the initials KPM. Officially founded in 1763 by Frederick the Great of Prussia, it was actually a reorganization of a nonroyal enterprise established three years earlier. The factory remains in operation today.