The term "Dresden porcelain" refers more to an artistic movement than a particular line of figurines or dinnerware.¬† Dresden was an important center of this artistic, cultural and intellectual movement, which attracted painters, sculptors, poets, philosophers and porcelain decorators alike.¬† In 1883, in response to the exciting developments happening all around them, four prominent ceramic decorators registered the famous blue crown Dresden mark, and the widely popular "Dresden style" was born.
Much confusion exists concerning the relationship between the names "Dresden" and "Meissen," which are often used interchangeably.¬† This misunderstanding dates to the earliest years of porcelain production in Europe.¬† The secret of hard paste porcelain, previously the exclusive knowledge of the Chinese and Japanese exporters, was actually discovered under the commission of Augustus the Strong in the city of Dresden.¬† The first porcelain-producing factory, however, was begun fifteen miles away in the city of Meissen, in 1710.¬† However, as Dresden was a vital cultural and economic center of Saxony, most Meissen china was sold there.¬† As a result, much Meissen china and figurines, characterized by the blue cross-swords stamp, were mistakenly referred to as "Dresden."
Although there were over 200 painting shops in Dresden alone between 1855 and 1944, the Dresden style is typically associated with the blue crown stamp first registered by Richard Klemm, Donath & Co., Oswald Lorenz, and Adolph Hamann in 1883.¬† The style they employed was a mixture of Meissen and Vienna flower and figure painting.¬† Later, other decorators employed the Crown and Dresden mark, and such names as Franziska Hirsch, Ambrosius Lamm, Carl Thieme (vases/urns, decorative)¬† and Helena Wolfsohn have also become synonymous with Dresden china.
Perhaps even more popular than the dinnerware are the lace porcelain figurines that were produced in Dresden during the same period.¬† Elaborate figures and "groupings" were made in large quantities, and are still produced in Germany to this day.¬† The famous "Dresden lace," was a method developed by Dresden decorators in which real lace was dipped in liquid porcelain and then applied to the figures by hand.¬† The result was a stunningly delicate appearance that was almost indistinguishable from soft fabric.¬† However, Dresden lace is so fragile that it can be damaged by even a light touch.¬†
Unfortunately, much of the work and the history of all the porcelain produced in Dresden was destroyed during the allied bombings of World War II.¬† In a single night, most Dresden decorating studios were obliterated along with many historical documents, and the porcelain painting business has never fully recovered.