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Brittle Beauty: Reflections on 18th-Century European Porcelain

Brittle Beauty: Reflections on 18th-Century European Porcelain


Brittle Beauty presents a superlative private collection of European porcelain – radical, rare and in many cases unique pieces assembled over thirty years. Lavishly illustrated and insightfully researched, the book showcases eighty vessels and sculptures, and includes accounts of their patrons and former owners, many as eccentric as the works themselves.

One striking attribute of porcelain is its reflective glaze. Mirror-like in a wider sense, Brittle Beauty: Reflections on 18th Century European Porcelain examines the context in which this porcelain was created – including cultural, political, topographical and ceremonial aspects. It also looks at related materials such as silver, textiles and glass.

The 18th century was the golden age of porcelain in Europe, which had previously been dependent on precious imports from the Far East. The discovery of the formula for hard-paste porcelain in Dresden in 1709 inspired the establishment of manufactories throughout the Continent. However, its popularity was not purely commercial: porcelain – with its meld of art and science, beauty and intellect, East and West – became a symbol of Enlightenment culture for every princely court. Oriental motifs and European forms were synthesised with deceptive subtlety; later, creations of pure fantasy emerged, often based on travellers’ accounts of exotic lands. Familiar Occidental themes such as nature, hunting or archaeology were paralleled by ironic narratives of love and vanity. Porcelain, with its fragile allure, is uniquely expressive of the human comedy, yet its destiny has often been brutal and tragic.

This book features essays from several eminent scholars. It also showcases a wealth of stunning imagery from Sylvain Deleu, who expertly photographed the pieces, many for the first time.

  • Various Authors

    Published by Ad Ilissvm

    Summer 2023 

    Hardback, 280 x 240 mm

    560 pages, approx. 600 colour illustrations

    ISBN: 978-1-912168-29-3

  • About the authors

    Andreina d’Agliano art historian and curator, is a specialist in porcelain from Turin and Florence and has published various private and public collections.

    Claudia Lehner-Jobst is an art historian specializing in European decorative arts, notably du Paquier porcelain, and Director of the Augarten Porcelain Museum, Vienna.

    Errol Manners FSA is a dealer in antique ceramics based in London and the former Chair of The French Porcelain Society and of the Ceramics Vetting Committee at TEFAF (Maastricht) and Masterpiece (London).

    Dame Rosalind Savill DBE, FBA, FSA, worked at the Victoria and Albert Museum and at the Wallace Collection (where she was Director from 1992-2011), and has published widely on Sèvres porcelain.

    Selma Schwartz, an independent scholar, was Deputy Keeper and Curator of Porcelain at the Rothschild Collection, Waddesdon Manor for over 25 years.

    Jeffrey Munger is a former curator in the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

  • In the press

    "a private collection of European porcelain showcasing 80 vessels and sculptures and includes accounts of their patrons and former owners, many as eccentric as the works themselves"—Country Life 

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