NEW YORK.- The porcelain factories of Berlin, Sèvres, and Vienna achieved a remarkable level of artistic and technical skill in the first half of the 19th century, and the quality of painted decoration practiced at these three factories at this time has never been surpassed. Approximately 75 extraordinary examples from these three European porcelain manufactories will be on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art beginning September 16, 2008, in the exhibition Royal Porcelain from the Twinight Collection, 1800-1850. The exhibition will illustrate both the rivalry and the exchange of ideas and styles among the factories that resulted in some of the most splendid porcelain ever produced.
Royal Porcelain from the Twinight Collection, 1800-1850 will be arranged in four sections: Recollections of Antiquity, Flower Painting, View Painting, and Recording History. Recollections of Antiquity will examine the fascination with the ancient world that extended not only to its images but also to its materials and methods of manufacture. On view will be vases and pieces of tableware embellished with popular forms of decoration in antiquity, including cameos and micromosaics. Flower Painting will feature the realistic botanical representations on porcelain that were inspired by a new interest in naturalism in the early 19th century. Individual flowers or floral clusters became the subject of "portraits" that were intended to be scientifically exact. Examples in the exhibition will include plates and cups depicting water lilies, lotus flowers, and roses. Also on view in this section will be exotic and local birds painted with a decorative effect on porcelain, including a Viennese birdcage cup and the superb Service des oiseaux d'Amérique du Sud by Madame Knip, a specialist in the field of ornithology who was employed at Sèvres to create the service. View Painting will highlight works such as vases and tea and coffee services that had specific cities and panoramic landscapes as decoration. Popular since the late 18th century and an important source of income for porcelain manufactories, many of the pieces decorated in this manner were used by Prussian kings as gifts. The final section, Recording History, will include early 19th-century porcelain that portrayed important contemporary events. Usually based on drawings, these works recorded notable historical occasions and contemporary interiors, and often served as personal gifts. An outstanding example in this category is a goblet and saucer with a depiction of Captain Cook's ships amongst the icebergs of the Atlantic.