Meissen Coffee Set, ca. 1820
My mother's biology teacher at St. Paul Central was good friend of the family, and it was hers, and I was like a grandchild to them and I inherited the set. The history goes that it came over in 1852 and it was a christening set.
So when did you inherit it?
I received it about 1964.
And did you have any idea at that time of the kind of value behind it or anything like that?
The only value I knew is that my mother had a friend over and she had offered $2,500 for the set.
Mm, that's a lot of money. And that was a lot of money in 1964.
And that's the only frame of reference we've had.
Well, you understood that this was Meissen porcelain. And so whenever we see Meissen, the question we ask ourselves, "Is this a real Meissen or is it a fake?" because there are so many fakes around. And there's several different ways that we can tell. The first thing that we'll do is we can look at the mark. Now, the mark is not always telling, because there are some marks that look good that aren't authentic. If we look on the bottom here, we've got a blue-- underglaze blue-- crossed-swords mark, and then on the other side of the mark, there's a Roman numeral I, and that's not usual, so I did a little research on that and I found that Meissen did use this mark, from about 1817 to 1824, with that Roman numeral I. The next thing we would look at is the quality of the porcelain. Is it the right weight? Is it the right color? And this seems correct. It's the right density, the right weight. One thing that we look at is the crispness of the design, like on the handles here, and on the handle of the cup, which is actually in the shape of a swan's head. It's well modeled, and that seems correct as well. And then the next thing we would look at is the quality of the decoration and was the decoration painted at the factory or was it done outside the factory, which would be called "Hausmalerei" decoration, which is a German term for "painted outside the factory." And the quality of this decoration of these cats is absolutely marvelous. We've got the cats on all the cups and saucers-- they're all different. We've got them on the creamer and the sugar. It's different on both sides. If we turn the pot around, we've got a completely different scene of a mother cat and kittens. Uh, one of the most exceptional detailing here is on the creamer. We've got a wooden box painted with all the knots and the graining in the wood. It's absolutely exceptional. It is Meissen, we're confident it is. The next thing, is it painted in the factory? And our first answer was, it doesn't matter. This decoration is so unusual and so well painted, it doesn't matter who did it-- it's great. When you think of Meissen, you think of flowers, lots of wonderful flowers. And they're well done, but they're not rare. And then you make think of people and houses and buildings. Those are fairly rare; those are very desirable. But animals, especially in this context-- domestic animals, like cats-- is almost unheard of for us. We were pretty thrilled with this decoration. We talked about it a while and we had to come up with a price, and our thought is, that yes, it does date in with the line in the first half of the 19th century, and our thought is that this set is worth at least $6,000 or $8,000.
It's truly a marvelous Meissen set. It's unusual, and a lot of fun to look at.
Thank you-- I'm thrilled.
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