Augustus Rex?

The story of the invention of European porcelain is amazing. If you are not familiar with it I’d highly recommend reading about it.

It all happened at the court of Augustus, who was the king of Saxony and Poland in the early 1700s. Augustus was a powerful man and the priceless early Meissen porcelain destined for his court bore his monogram: ‘AR’ or ‘Augustus Rex’. This mark differs from Meissen from about 1722, when the famous crossed sword mark was introduced. A while ago I acquired a nice hand painted cup, which had the ‘AR’ mark on the bottom in underglaze blue.

It is a small cup, also called a demitasse and it doesn’t take the most trained eye to see that it is not an early 18th century piece. Most likely it is a piece made by a rather infamous workshop called after its founder: ‘Helena Wolfsohn’. In the 2nd half of the 19th century there were dozens of workshops in Dresden specialising in painting white porcelain. Most of this porcelain was made by renowned factories like Meissen and sold to these workshops that decorated them. Helena Wolfsohns workshop was one of these decorators and their wares can be recognised by the ‘AR’ mark, which they freely used without Meissen’s permission.

Around 1880 they were sued by the Meissen factory for using the mark and Meissen won. The lawsuit and the sum they had to pay to Meissen was so costly that the firm almost went bankrupt. Multiple sources say that the Dresden painting industry mostly used 2nd rate Meissen blanks. Although this might be true for other workshops it makes no sense for Helena Wolfsohn. The ‘AR’ mark is always applied under the glazing. This means it was applied before firing, so at the factory. It makes no sense that the Meissen factory would willingly apply this mark. I assume they had another source for their porcelain blanks although I have not found any literature supporting this view.

After the Meissen lawsuit Wolfsohn’s studio marked most of their items with a crowned D, for Dresden

In any case, although the cup never saw the court of Augustus its history is fascinating in its own respect.

The item can be found here: link.

The similar Wolfsohn cup and saucer marked ‘D’ for Dresden can be found here: link.

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