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Fri Aug 3 2012 10:45:03

Antiques Friday: Q and A with Porcelain Expert Maria Sabat

By: Julia Wilkinson

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Last Friday AuctionBytes Blog surveyed you, the readers, about what types of antiques and collectibles you sell. The results were very interesting, and we'll be sharing those with you in next Friday's post. But one of the things we learned was that 39.1% of you sell China, Porcelain or Dishware. So today I'm so pleased to share with you a q & a from a renowned expert in some of the finest porcelain in the world: Meissen and Nymphenburg. Maria Sabat is an expert with Auctionata, and has worked in the renowned Berlin antiques trade for over 25 years, during which she has acquired an exceptional eye for the quality of porcelain objects. 

- What kinds of things are you seeing in Meissen and Nymphenburg that are selling well right now? I.e., is there any type of item that is "hot" in the market, such as dishes, figurines, urns? 

I don’t think you can generalize that. Here in Berlin, Meissen and KPM (The Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur) are the most popular porcelain brands; Nymphenburg is rather unpopular. In the southern part of Germany, Meissen and Nymphenburg are more popular than KPM. There are always outstanding objects of each area - dishes, figurines, vases.

It depends what the collector is looking for. For what type of dinnerware is he looking for; some particular pieces to add. Is he collecting figurines of a particular artist like Max Esser or Paul Scheurich, or vases painted by Paul Miethe, to name some examples? The animal masks of Max Esser realize record prices regarding so-called Urstücke (the first ten examples). The same is true for the “Russian Ballet” by Paul Scheurich concerning early works after 1914 with D-numbers, and for the monumental Weichmalerei Vasen which Paul Miethe painted after 1900.

- Similarly, are there any kinds of items that are not selling well, perhaps due to the state of the economy? Such as very large pieces, perhaps?

Yes, complete and extensive dinnerware, for example. The taste and trend changed as well as the behavior of potential customers. Having an event, you don’t receive relatives, friends, business partners at home, but you are going to a fine restaurant. 

- Can you give sellers any tips for identifying the Meissen and Nymphenburg marks? The Meissen marks are crossed swords, but they have a number of there a good guide on the Internet, for example, or a reference book you can recommend?

To recognize what brand and époque it is about and if it is an original or a fake, you need long-term experience. I would always advise inexperienced sellers to consult experts. [With] most manufacturers...a research of objects is going to be expensive. [Auctionata offers a free estimate from a network of experts.]

- Are there many fakes or reproductions of these brands out there, and if so are there tips for sellers to identify them?

Yes, en masse and they are almost not recognizable for sellers. Meissen, for example, is one the most faked brands in the world. Then as now. And that is not just concerning the brand, but also completely faked objects which mostly come from US manufacturers. In the past, the brand of the Meissen swords or deceptively real-looking brands were used by German, French and Russian manufacturers.

- What are some of your favorite pieces of Meissen and/or Nymphenburg that you have seen over the years, and why?

I’m excited about animal sculptures by Max Esser and in particular the otter made of Böttger-stoneware from Meissen. It is fascinating how phenomenal Esser caught the moves of the otter. You get the impression of an alive creature. And I really love the Meissen figurines “Kugelspielerin” by Walther Schott and “Nach dem Bade” by Robert Ockelmann. 

My absolute favorite by Nymphenburg is the “Commedia dell’Arte”, especially Leda. When I saw her the first time, I immediately fell in love. Her gesture and staginess directly lead to the world of Italian folks comedy - which Franz Anton Bustelli masterly caught for Nymphenburg manufacture. Her expressive face and theatric gesture make the partner of Capitano Spavento seem alive. The hands and details of the accessories as well as the rich decorated dress, her face and the feminine accessories show Bustelli's passion for the Commedia dell’Arte. That is also mirrored by the dress, which is decorated with the outstanding ornamental painting of emaille-and gold-colour.

- What got you interested in porcelain -- were you introduced to it as a child by a relative, or is there another story there?

My grandmother had a sheltered dinnerware for Sundays with floral décor which was only used for very special events. When I look back, I feel safe and solemn. That influenced my whole life and led to the fact that I am working in the popular antiques trade in Berlin for 25 years now and gathered the special feeling for quality of the different kinds of porcelain. My favorite artists are Prof. Max Esser and Prof. Paul Scheurich, but I am as well a fan of Prof. Paul Miethe with the incomparable lively, floral porcelain peinture of high artistic perfection. These three artists are mainly responsible for my own collection which is completed through works of other artists. For me, porcelain belongs to life and a nice setting of the table in my grandmother’s tradition is simply quality of life.

- Anything else you care to add? 

Maybe a short-story about the collector‘s emotions, which I experience quite often, when collectors finally find a piece for which they looked a long time. Two years ago, a long-term client who attends the Berlinale in Berlin each year, came and visited me in my shop. He discovered a few small enameled Art Nouveau vases and wanted me to show them to him immediately. 

I put them onto the table and he looked at them exhaustively. When I wanted to put a vase back into the glass cabinet and turned back to him, I was shocked. The client had sunk to his knees and I thought he’d had a dizzy spell. When I addressed him he said, with tears in his eyes, “I’m so happy. The beauty of these vases is overwhelming me. It makes me so happy to meet these beauties here in your shop.”  That was a very emotional moment for me as well.

- Thanks so much!

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This user has validated their user name. by: juliawww

Mon Aug 13 21:04:40 2012

Here's a book I have found very helpful in identifying the Meissen I have found..lots of beautiful pictures, marks information, sample prices, and history. Meissen Porcelain Identification and Value Guide:

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