As the craze for all things Chinese swept across Europe, the continent fell in love with porcelain. August the Strong was the only person to know the secret of how to make it. In 1710, he founded the first European porcelain manufactory in Meissen and made this exotic material into its unique calling card. Thirsting after its beauty, he collected thousands of pieces, the minority of which were the practical everyday items we associate with porcelain today. This explains how the Dresden Porzellansammlung is able to show precious vases, figurines and life-sized sculptures modelled after real animals owned by the Saxon king, alongside the finest dining services.
Peter Martino developed the new design for the galleries holding the most beautiful and rare of the 20,000 pieces preserved in the Dresden Zwinger. The New York architect, who had previously focussed on designing private residences and flagship stores for major fashion houses, underscores the luxury character of the porcelain through his presentation of the pieces either singly or arranged in groups. Largely uncased and freestanding, visitors are able to experience the porcelain more intimately than is usually the case.
Presented before leather hangings, mirrored expanses, or silk-panelled walls, each grouping establishes a world of its own. In this way, lions and fighting dogs made from Meissen porcelain take up position next to peacocks, parrots and a family of monkeys, beneath the canopies of exotic-seeming pavilions. Peter Marino was interested in allowing the visitors to have an emotional experience of baroque opulence, rather than attempting a reconstruction of the collection as August the Strong had planned to present it.
Today, the Porzellansammlung wows visitors, as it is one of the finest collections of its kind worldwide – and the galleries afford a wonderful view of the unique inner courtyard of the Dresden Zwinger to boot.