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History of the Collection

The famous Dresden porcelain collection, the Porzellansammlung, owes its existence to August the Strong. His passion for these fragile treasures can be wonderfully illustrated by the story of the Dragoon Vases. In 1717 August the Strong (1670 – 1733) exchanged six hundred soldiers for 151 Chinese lidded vases that belonged to Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia. Since these soldiers formed a dragoon regiment, the vessels went down in history as the ‘Dragoon Vases’. Most of the oriental porcelain wares came to Dresden by a different route. The Dutch East India Company brought these luxury goods from China and Japan to Europe by sea, and via dealers at the Leipzig Fair they found their way to the Saxon court.

In 1708 Johann Friedrich Böttger and Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus succeeded in solving the mystery of porcelain production. In January 1710 August the Strong was able to found the first European porcelain manufactory in Dresden. As early as the summer of 1710 it was relocated to Albrechtsburg Castle in Meissen, the primary purpose of the move being to keep the method of porcelain manufacture secret. The exhibition documents the development of the diverse range of vessels and figures, as well as of porcelain painting and the famous dinner services. The collection of August the Strong, which comprises around 20,000 individual pieces, was to have been displayed in the “Japanisches Palais”, a building that had been purchased specifically for the purpose of converting it into a “Porzellanschloss”. Following the death of the King in 1733, this plan did not come to fruition. In the 19th century, the porcelain was transferred from the Japanisches Palais to the Johanneum. During the Second World War the porcelain was evacuated, so that the bulk of the collection escaped damage in the destruction of Dresden in 1945. It was transported by the Red Army to the Soviet Union and was returned to Dresden in 1958. Since 1962 the museum has been accommodated in the Zwinger. Today the splendour of these incomparably precious porcelain wares from China, Japan and Meissen can be viewed and admired against the delightful historical backdrop of the Zwinger.