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daily on the increase, and to supply the majority of such persons, hundreds of whom have little taste and less knowledge of real art, the new era of invention has sprung up, whereas many, far without the bounds of real connoisseurs, are contented with the supply which modern art produces; whereas for those who know, or fancy they know, better than their neighbours, every possible artifice is resorted to—not to convince them of their error, but to flatter their vanity in the belief that they possess first-rate specimens, for which they pay accordingly.
Doubtless, modern Dresden, modern Sèvres, modern Wedgwood, are all very beautiful in their way, and secure prices far beyond their intrinsic value. And why so? Simply that very many persons exclaim, What do I want with old china, old bronzes, old wood carvings ? those of to-day are so beautiful.
I admit the fact; modern art in many cases is very beautiful.
Yet, permit me to ask, Is an original picture by Murillo, Raphael, or Teniers equal to a copy? Is not a proof print superior to a common print in beauty, outline, and engraving? Is the painting of a rare old Sèvres, Chelsea, or Buen Retiro cup, or Dresden or Vienna plateau, to be mentioned in the same breath with the daubs on the modern ? And, beautiful as are many of the works by Minton, or from Worcester, is the exquisite modelling of early Dresden, Berlin, and Chelsea groups to be for a moment compared to or equalled by those of the present day? No-believe me, no. Any collector of taste, who fully appreciates and understands real art from false, ignores all imitations. Yet the world must be supplied at any price, and if the real is not to be had, they must, or rather will, take that which is offered.
Not that I desire to cavil at the sums that are paid in the present era of bric-à-brac. The result appears to me simply, not only the increase of riches and education, but the fact of several of the great fabrics of Europe having ceased to exist, while others are consumptive. Thus ended the production of the richly gilded and artistically painted old Vienna-I imagine at one time not
greatly estimated by the general public or dealers ; greatly so, however, by real connoisseurs, who soon ascertained that no European china was more richly decorated : and thus a Vienna cup and saucer, which I have myself formerly obtained for fifty shillings, is now gladly bought as a firstrate specimen for eight or ten pounds. It is the same as regards Vienna plates. Some of the old ones, exquisitely painted and gilded, formerly to be had for four or five pounds, are now worth twenty pounds; whereas the modern, though very prettily painted, are quite unequal, while chicanery is resorted to to convince the novice they are originals; consequently innumerable white Vienna plates, having the true marks, which are ancient, some with the rims well coloured and gilded, are now painted in the centre by clever artists—many of them well painted—and are sent to all the capitals for sale. But the connoisseur is not to be deceived: they belong to the “New'Era.”
Many, nay most, of the Geman fabrics of the Palatine--such as Frankenthal, Fulda, Mayencehave also long ceased to exist. I confess to never
having come across imitations or false productions. I conclude they can scarcely be imitated ; for, in my humble opinion, many of the groups are matchless in life and spirit as to face and form. And yet, I know not why, they appeared to me to be never considered equal to Dresden by dealers, though all of a sudden they appear to have taken their just place among amateurs with taste and knowledge.
The imperial fabric of Russia, founded by Catherine II., will also, I greatly fear, die the death of many others, and give place to modern art, though of late years it was rising in perfection of modelling and form ; and all now produced is sold at treble the price of former years.
The downfall of so many of these great and valuable schools of art appears to me to be caused from the simple fact that all the great fabrics of Europe which were hitherto protected by the pecuniary aid of the State in which they were bornsuch as Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Petersburg, Chelsea, -were to a certain degree mere treasure-houses for royal ceramic beauties, vying with one another to
produce the finest specimens. Emperors or kings could select therefrom the choicest works of art to adorn their palaces, and give as presents to adorn those of their royal brothers, ambassadors or envoys, or personal friends, for which the State may be said to have paid.
So was it at Sèvres even during the late empire ; so is it, if I am not incorrect, to the present day at Berlin; kings, queens, and emperors being supplied with the best, the public get what they can. In naming that public, however, I by no means allude to a public who require a sixpenny cup and saucer for matutinal use, but the public with long purses, who could afford to purchase at high prices, and who appreciated and had knowledge of art; and from the collections formed in those days, as from private sources in later years, some of the finest specimens of ceramic art have been dispersed throughout the world. As that world and its ways advanced, however, in the era of reform, even that of porcelain fabrics commenced.
Prices being high, and purchasers being less numerous, what was intended as a means of