Continental Porcelain

Continental porcelain differs essentially from English in that it was in nearly every instance, either at first or eventually, hard-paste. Even those factories that began with pseudo-glass soft-paste turned in the end to true hard porcelain. Marks are much more frequent than on English pieces, but have to be treated with suspicion as they stayed in use over long periods and were copied freely. The supremacy of Dresden induced many makers, on the Continent as well as in England, to mark their wares with the crossed swords or with the AR monogram.

Just as in England there were 'outside decorators', in Germany and Austria there were 'Hausmalers' (literally, home painters), who bought unpainted ware and decorated it themselves in their own individual styles. Many of these men were excellent artists and did work of high quality, but they were not popular with the factories. At Dresden, all pieces sold in the white after about 1760 had one or more short lines cut through the crossed swords to indicate that they were imperfect. While many of the imperfections were only slight, they were sufficient to make the ware unfit for decorating by the factory painters.

It should be remembered that many Continental factories are still in production and re-use eighteenth-century moulds of their own and other makers' wares. Often they mark them appropriately, and it is far from easy for the novice to distinguish between old and new. Careful examination of genuine pieces and a comparison of them with modern copies, are the only ways to recognize and learn the difference. It may comfort the puzzled beginner to know that fifty years ago a director of the Sevres factory confessed he was completely unable to distinguish old from new when some doubtful pieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum were submitted for his opinion.

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