Q: I inherited this beautifully painted 11-inch-tall porcelain vase and would like to know its origins. The base is marked in blue with a crown above the back-to-back initials “JK” and below that “Dresden.” I believe “Germany” is written below. I cannot make out any markings in the gold stamp, but the incised marking appears to read *8/4 CV.” The word “Chrysanthemum” is written around the edge. Can you help?
A: Before we begin, we want to thank you for giving us such complete information about this spectacular late 19th or early 20th century vase.
This story really begins with Augustus the Strong (1670-1733, aka the “Saxon Hercules”), elector of Saxony and king of Poland. The king, who reveled in his physical strength, almost bankrupted the various kingdoms and provinces under his control with his obsessive buying of Asian porcelain.
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There is one story that he traded a company of soldiers for one Japanese Imari vase. Enter Johann Frederich Bottger, an alchemist who was fleeing the king of Prussia because he had failed to turn base metal into gold. Augustus essentially intercepted him, imprisoned him and charged him with the task of creating gold.
Of course, Bottger failed once again, but he did promise to do something that no European had yet accomplished — make Chinese-style hard-paste porcelain. In those days, that was essentially the same as making gold, and in 1709, with the assistance of Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus, Bottger succeeded in making hard-paste porcelain.
This feat was accomplished in Dresden, the capital of Saxony, but for security reasons, Augustus had the production of the new material moved 14 miles down the road to his castle at Meissen. Meissen porcelain is treasured today, and porcelain was never again made in Dresden (but it was decorated there).
The lovely piece in today’s question was decorated by Richard Klemm (the mark is a back-to-back “RK,” not “JK”), whose firm worked in Dresden from 1869 to 1916. The particular mark found in blue overglaze on A. B.’s piece was used by Klemm between 1888 and 1916.
Although far better than most, this is a fairly typical Klemm decoration with a green ground and stylized raised gold chrysanthemums surrounding the irregular central medallion of a beautiful woman standing in front of a white column holding a jug. Most Klemm portraits like this are just a bust of a woman, but this one has a great deal more content to the image and is truly remarkable for a Klemm piece.
As we have said before, the price of most European porcelain has declined in recent years, and we were worried this piece would be no exception. However, an exploration of the current auction market shows that pieces such as this one are doing fairly well, and based on the data we found, we feel this piece has an insurance replacement value in the $2,500 to $3,000 range.
Write to Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like your question to be considered for the column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus.