During the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) Frederick II had Prussian troops take control of the Meissen porcelain factory and ordered scores of highly coveted porcelain works be produced for his court. In 1761 he encouraged Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky (who became a leading merchant and financier in Frederick II's reign), to set up his own porcelain factory in the Prussian capital Berlin. But when this commercial venture was poised to fail, the king swiftly decided to take over the production site and in 1763 established it as a royal factory, with the royal sceptre as its trademark.
Frederick II fostered an almost patriarchal relationship with his porcelain and in many instances personally intervened in decisions on form and décor. The sculptor Friedrich Elias Meyer, a pupil of Johann Joachim Kändler, was the factory's most skilled and adaptable model master. With the help of his brother Wilhelm Christian, he raised the factory to great status. Particular emphasis was placed on the production of services. They were produced, mostly for display purposes only, for specific palaces. The décor of these palaces was often directly reflected in the services. The king himself became personally involved in decisions on form and décor and encouraged the development of particular colours, of which 'bleu mourant' (pale or 'dying blue') is the most famous, closely associated with the Prussian court. Frederick soon also began to effectively exploit the value of porcelain works as diplomatic gifts. All these aspects of Frederick II's influence on porcelain production are brilliantly illustrated by works from the Museum of Decorative Arts' own collection.
The exhibition is being held as part of a wider series of events called 'Art - King - Enlightenment', coordinated by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in honour of the 300th anniversary of the birth of Frederick the Great on 24 January 2012.
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