The Origins of the Onion Pattern

I will be keeping up regular blog posts about Porcelain related subjects from now on. I will also share these on a range of social media.

As a porcelain lover and an art historian finding little stories within your own stock is always great. A few weeks ago I found such a story.

The Onion Pattern or Zwiebelmuster is perhaps the most iconic pattern the Meissen porcelain facutory brought forth. But how European is it? It turns out it’s not European at all.

I while back we had the luck of hanging on to a Chinese plate for a while. The plate was a lovely example of Famille Rose from the Quianlong period (1735-1796). Upon closer inspection the pattern was very familiar, it was in fact a version of the Onion Pattern that was copied (and perfected) by Meissen. It is known that such plates were in the collection of Augustus the Strong (the founder of the Meissen factory). Here are two images for comparison, the first being the Chinese plate and the second being a later Meissen plate:

What I find most fascinating is that the one plate manages to be very much Chinese, whilst the other plate is distinctly German.

If you look at the development of visual culture and the spread of styles of decoration, porcelain has played an important role. It was easy to transport over long distances, made in large quantities and amply decorated. This little story is just one of many examples.

The Meissen Plate is available here: link

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