Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)
This delicate déjeuner, or breakfast set, represents the confluence of two European passions of the 18th and 19th centuries: porcelain and coffee. Both were introduced to the continent through foreign trade, and both were greatly coveted. The coffee service was created at the Vienna Porcelain Manufactory, which followed Meissen as the second European factory to produce hard-paste porcelain, previously available only from China.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Vienna Manufactory's tableware was renowned for the jewel-like quality of its painted decoration, which featured colored grounds, elaborate miniature painting, and rich gilding. The factory employed several categories of painters, including ornamentists, pattern painters, flower painters, and historical and landscape painters. Among the flower painters was Joseph Leithner, who made important contributions to the factory's color technology, including "Leithner gold," a gilding that adhered to delicate relief work and could be further embellished by etching or burnishing.
The style of this coffee service is Neoclassical, its form and decoration inspired by ancient works excavated in Greece and Rome. One cup bears the number 80, the symbol used by Gottfried Schmidt, the decorator who presumably painted the scenes on each piece. In addition to gilt relief, the decoration on this service includes silver, making it especially luxurious.
Mm! how sweet the coffee tastes, more delicious than a thousand kisses, mellower than muscatel wine. -Christian Friedrich Henrici, libretto for J.S. Bach, Coffee Cantata, 1732-34
Antiquitäten C. Bednarczyk, Vienna, Austria; purchased from Antiquitäten C. Bednarczyk, September 1995.