Early eighteenth-century Vienna was a vibrant, cosmopolitan city that attracted aristocrats, men of commerce, artists, and adventurers, all eager to be near the powerful Hapsburg Court. It was a fertile environment for entrepreneurs like Claudius Innocentius du Paquier, who, in 1718, founded the Du Paquier manufactory, the second factory in Europe to produce the coveted Asian porcelain known as “white gold.”
Porcelain had been manufactured in China since the seventh century but did not reach Europe with any regularity until the mid-sixteenth century, after the landing of Portuguese ships on the south coast of China in 1513. Over the next two centuries, the only porcelain available in Europe was imported from Asia. The formula for its production, or arcanum, remained unknown in Europe until 1708, when the German chemist Johann Friedrich Böttger produced true hard-paste porcelain by combining local clays containing kaolin (the essential white ingredient) with ground alabaster. Thereafter, the formula was strictly guarded by Böttger’s patron, Augustus II (Augustus the Strong), Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, who in 1710 founded the Royal Porcelain Manufactory in Dresden, the seat of the Saxon court. So determined was the king to keep the formula a secret that he relocated his factory to a secure cliff-top medieval castle, Albrechtsburg, in Meissen, later that year.
In 1717, Claudius Innocentius du Paquier, an agent in the Imperial Council of War (a military ministry), decided to open a porcelain factory. Through his diplomatic connections, he was able to recruit several key employees from the Meissen manufactory: Christoph Conrad Hunger (or Unger), a porcelain painter; Just Friedrich Tiemann, an expert in fabricating kilns; and Samuel Stöltzel, the Meissen kiln master who had worked closely with Böttger since 1705 and who brought with him the recipe for porcelain paste. Du Paquier also succeeded in securing imperial protection: on May 27, 1718, Charles VI (Holy Roman Emperor, King of Hungary, and Archduke of Austria) granted him a privilege, or exclusive right, to establish a porcelain manufactory in Vienna. The twenty-five-year patent was for the manufacture of “all sorts of fine porcelain . . . such as are made in East India and other foreign countries.”
The innovative, richly ornamented, and often whimsical pieces that Du Paquier created drew their animating spirit from Vienna and the court of the Hapsburgs and challenged the dominance of porcelain from East Asia and Meissen. His tableware, decorative vases, and sculptures were extremely popular with emperors, aristocrats, and wealthy foreigners, as well as with the rising class of merchants, coffee house owners, and innkeepers. However, the production of porcelain by a small private enterprise such as Du Paquier’s was risky and costly; in 1744, when his imperial privilege expired, Du Paquier was so much in debt that he sold the factory to Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria. While the manufactory operated under a different name until 1864, it is the pieces made during Du Paquier’s ownership that continue to charm and surprise with their originality, variety, and exuberance.
The pieces exhibited are all hard-paste porcelain from the Du Paquier manufactory. Unless otherwise indicated, they are from the private collection of Paul and Melinda Sullivan.