The up’s and down’s of a porcelain factory: 275 years of Fürstenberg

Christina/ September 18, 2022/ The daily grind, Culture

This year we visited castle Fürstenberg and its factory for the first time. On our bicycle tour along the river Weser we came across the building. And of course we made a stop there to have a good look at the famous porcelain. This saturday, however, we are at the Städtische Museum Braunschweig to learn more about the history of the company. Dr. Christian Lechelt, dirctor of the Fürstenberg museum, gives a lecture on the manufacture’s development.

High technology just like Tesla today
The manufacturing of porcelain in the 18th century was a trade secret at that time. Only a few people, the so called arcanist, know how to produce china. “The manufacture of porcelain”, Lechelt tells us, “was absolutely high technology at that time. It is comparable to what Tesla does right now in its Gigafactory in Germany.” The start of the venture, however, was stony. In 1747 duke Carl I. established the factory in the former caslte Fürstenberg. It is intention to produce porcelain for the free market and not only for his own need. His intentions were absolutely new at this time as it was courteous for sovereigns to have its own manufacture which was strictly reserved to the nobility.

The duke and his professional hunter Johann Georg von Langen were depending on the expertise of a wandering arcanist. Johann Christoph Glaser makes his appearance. Glaser is a porcelain painter and according to his own testimony an arcanist. The start-up entrepreneurs duke Carl I. and von Langen pay dearly. It takes five years until they realize that Glaser is a cheater.

Duke Carl I. and von Langen take new measures and headhunt Johann Killian Benckgraff from the Höchster porcelain manufacture. Luck is just for a while on their side as Benckgraff dies in 1753. However before his death he tells them the secret of how to produce china. Since then, porcelain is being produced at Fürstenberg.

European porcelain pompeji
Lechelt tells us another secret. That’s the fact that the ruins of the former porcelain house are called “porcelain pompeji” among those in the know. And indeed the oldest porcelain remains were discovered over there. Meißen was still part of the GDR at that time.

The Polish porcelain girls
After one hour and a half Lechelt finishes his journey through the changeful history of Fürstenberg’s manufacture. The audience is allowed to pose some questions. A lady is surprised that the presented porcelain decorators are all male, such as Christian Gotthelf Beuchel oder Johann Philipp Zisler. As a fact, the only female hands at that time were the so called Polish porcelain girl who did not work as artists but as workers. Of course, that has changed today.

Although the lecture is a little bit too long in the end, the information and the anecdotes by Christian Lechelt are very entertaining. A diverting saturday afternoon – just the right amusment for a rainy day like this.

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