E.t was last spring when Regina Krahl went down to the depot of the porcelain collection of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden and made an almost unbelievable discovery. “I saw it right away,” she says. The object in question is a rather inconspicuous little pale green shell. But that’s exactly why it stood out among all the pomp, the loud colors and gaudy patterns of the other porcelains in the collection, which are often large to huge. “It was very clear to me that it was Ru.”
Regina Krahl should know. She is an expert in Chinese art, especially Chinese ceramics. And she is considered one of the very few connoisseurs of Ru stoneware. “That was really great,” she says. “I was completely euphoric!” Most of them will never have heard the term Ru. This is also due to the fact that there were only 87 Ru ceramics in the world before the discovery in Dresden. So Dresden is number 88, and as luck would have it, number 89 followed shortly afterwards in Great Britain. It should stay that way for the time being.
One more splendid than the other
The Dresden museum people are enthusiastic about the discovery. “What an amazing find,” says Julia Weber, the head of the porcelain collection in the Zwinger. Finally there is good news for the world from here again, after thieves broke into the Green Vault across the street the year before, into the treasure chamber of August the Strong in the residential palace. They had seized irreplaceable pieces of valuable diamond trimmings, which the great Elector and Duke of Saxony acquired not only out of passion, but also above all in order to be able to compete with the European nobility in the competition for importance. Without this instinct, along with a passion for collecting and art expertise, the collections would not be what they are today, despite all the volts of history: They are among the most important in Europe. This is especially true for the porcelain collection. Its exhibits from East Asia as well as from the beginnings of European porcelain manufacture make the collection one of the most important addresses in the whole world.
At the time, Augustus the Strong bought what the state box gave, and often more. The almost man-high lidded vases with a cobalt blue decoration, for which the Elector of Saxony paid exactly 151 pieces to Soldier King Friedrich Wilhelm I with 600 Saxon cavalry soldiers in 1717, bear witness to this. The Prussian formed a dragoon regiment from this. From then on, the soldiers of this regiment were called porcelain dragons, although the vases in Dresden are still called dragoon vases to this day. Six of these mighty vessels stand on a pedestal in today’s exhibition and are surrounded by showcases in which it shines, shines and sparkles. Vases, pots, plates and bowls made of the finest Chinese porcelain from the 17th and 18th centuries can be admired here. The decors seem to be competing for attention: colors such as gold, silver and powder blue alternate with iron red, green and mirror black. The vessels are painted with animals, plants, ornaments, each more splendid than the other.
“It immediately triggers enthusiasm”
In all the visual noise, one hardly notices how employees quietly push the unexpected new star of the collection into the hall on a cart. Suddenly this Ru bowl appears on a plain gray background. It almost seems as if it had been forgotten during renovation work. The idea is not far-fetched, as the valuable piece is most likely a brush wash bowl. “It’s a particularly well-preserved piece,” says Regina Krahl. The transparent glaze, shimmering in bluish green, with the crackle that looks like fine ice flakes, in which the light breaks so beautifully, is something unique. “It looks like it has been carved out of a valuable stone,” says Krahl. “And it immediately triggers enthusiasm.”