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Dresden's Porcelain Collection Back on Show

One of the world's finest collections of porcelain returns to the re-opened Glockenspiel Pavilion in Dresden on Wednesday after three years away from the public eye.


On view again: Dresden's exquisite porcelain collection

An exhibition of what is regarded as the greatest collection of porcelain in the western world was reopened to the public in Dresden on Tuesday.

The collection -- a 20,000 strong assemblage gathered together by Augustus the Strong -- went on show at the recently renovated Glockenspiel Pavilion in the eastern German city.

Augustus was the elector of Saxony at the turn of the 18th century and gathered his precious ceramic collection from all over the world. Many of the exhibits he found as he traveled through the Orient, although the collection also boasts some fine examples of local Meissen porcelain.

The factory in Meissen, located just outside of Dresden, held a virtual monopoly on German porcelain in the latter half of the 19th century, producing porcelain flowers, animals and dinner services for the rich.

Not a wash out

The museum has just undergone a three-year long renovation at the cost of 8.5 million euro, although it was feared that the floods Dresden endured in early summer would threaten the exhibition’s opening.

But curators beat the odds and museum director, Ulrich Pietzsch was overjoyed at being able to exhibit the collection there. "I can’t think of any museum more fitting for porcelain than the Glockenspiel," he told a German news agency early this week.

Bull in a China shop

But Augustus himself might well turn in his grave if he knew that his precious collection was actually incomplete. The collection was seized by the Russians in 1945 and some of the best Chinese pieces remain missing despite most of it being returned to the former East Germany by 1960.

However, the exhibition still contains some of the finest pieces of Chinese and Japanese porcelain acquired by Augustus during his life.

Zwinger Glockenspielpavillion

The recently renovated Glockenspiel pavillion is a fitting home to the exhibition.

The display at the pavilion shows the exhibits as they would have been arranged by the collector in the 18th century: in rows leaned up against walls or standing free in the center of the rooms. Visitors will be able to see the intricate paint work and craftsmanship in detail, without hindrance from glass display cases.

The exhibition is not only testament to the overwhelming skill of East German potters, but also to Augustus’ excessive dedication to porcelain: He called his love for ceramics a ‘maladie de porcelaine’ – a porcelain illness.

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