As early as the 13th century, porcelain was a hightly coveted item at the royal courts of Europe and was imported from Asia – in particular from China – at extravagent prices. Attempts were made starting from the early 18th century to reproduce the « White Gold » in Europe, with alchemist Johan Friedrich Böttger finding success in Meissen in 1708 under the commission from Saxony’s royal court.

In the 17th century, courageous sailors from the East India Trading Company embarked on an adventurous voyage and brought valuable porcelain from China, with designs never seen before in Europe, where Augustus the Strong – Elector of Saxony and King of Poland from 1697 to 1733 – succombed to the ‘maladie de porcelaine‘ and funded the first European porcelain manufactory in 1710. Under his leadership, the first European hard-paste porceialin was produced in Meissen.

Augustus the Strong asked his alchemists to turn simple metals into gold. For this, he – in 1702 – asked the young Johann Friedrich Böttger to the capital of Saxony, Dresde. After two years of failed experiments, and a botched attempt to flee to Vienna, Böttger was placed under the supervision of the Electoral mathematician and physicist Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus – a collaboration that turned out to be a success. Together with the mining officer Gottfried Pabst von Ohain, and miners and smelters from Freiberg, Böttger systematically researched various material offsets and performed a series of tests on the behaviour of Saxon clays when it is heated.

The quality of Meissen porcelain has its beginnings in the manufactory’s own mine near the city of Meissen, where the purest kaolin is sourced day after day. This white clay is the key to the striking radiance of Meissen porcelain. The precise blending of kaolin with native feldspar and quartz has been refined in Meissen over the past 300 years and is still completed by hand to this day.

In November 1707, Böttger succeeded in producing red stoneware or Jaspis porcelain, a material that revealed the production techniques required to produce white porcelain. The red clay simply was to be replaced with white kaolin – the final piece needed. On January 15, 1708, the first European white porcelain was fired. Formula at hand, Augustus the Strong’s great dream began to take shape : European hard-paste porcelain could now be produced. On June 6, 1710, Augustus the Strong established the first European porcelain manufacturer: The ‘Royal Polish and Electoral Saxon Porcelain Manufactury’. The ‘Albrechtstiftung’ in Meissen would remain the production facility for more than 150 years. From 1861 to 1865, it was gradually relocated to a site in Meissen’s Triebichtal, where it is still located today.

Soon afterwards, other production sites of porcelain would be established in Europe. The typcial sign for Meissen porcelain – also enabling its authenticity – is the signature Crossed Swords, taken from the coat of arms of the Electorate of Saxony. It was introduced in 1722, making it one of the oldest continuously used trademarks in the world. In 1713, shortly after the invention of European hard porcelain, Meissen began to produce chess pieces. Meissen chessmen are stamped with the crossed swords underglaze blue.33

Busts Chess Set

Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775)

Sizes: King 66mm; Queen 60mm; Bishop 55mm; Knight 54mm; Rook 53mm; Pawn 48mm.

Source: Meissener Manuskripte VI; CCI private collection

‘Column’ Set

Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775)

Sizes: King 120mm; Queen 89mm; Bishop 70mm; Knight 80mm; Rook 61mm; Pawn 50mm.

Source: Meissener Manuskripte VI

Turks vs Moors

Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775)

Sizes: King 80mm; Queen 70mm; Bishop 60mm; Knight 70mm; Rook 70mm; Pawn 60mm. 

Source: Meissener Manuskripte VI3

Marine Animals

Max Esser (1885-1945). Designed 1923


Sizes: King 85mm; Queen 70mm; Bishop 50mm; Knight 70mm; Rook 50mm; Pawn 23mm. 


Source: Meissener Manuskpripte VI and Philadelphia Museum of Art

Mythical Animals

Max Esser (1885-1945)

In 1919, the renowned sculptur Max Esser rediscovered the so-called Böttger stoneware and used it for his sculptures. .

Sizes: King 110mm; Queen 100mm; Bishop 70mm; Knight 90mm; Rook 70mm; Pawn 50mm. 

Source: Meissener Manuskripte VI


Max Esser (1885-1945)

Sizes: King 85mm; Queen 80mm; Bishop 40mm; Knight 60mm; Rook 60mm; Pawn 30mm. 

Source: Meissener Manuskripte VI



Alexander Struck (1902-1990).

Sizes: King 83mm; Queen 85mm; Bishop 65mm; Knight 80mm; Rook 62mm; Pawn 30mm. 

Source: Meissener Manuskripte VI; CCI private collection

Heaven and Hell

Peter Strang (born 1936).

Sizes: King 98mm; Queen 90mm; Bishop 75mm; Knight 80mm; Rook 68mm; Pawn 50mm. 

Source: Meissener Manuskripte VI