This is the only set of porcelain known to have been painted by Johann Joachim Friedrich Elsasser, a Meissen artist who worked at the Ludwigsburg porcelain factory for a little over two years, from 1780-1782. His signature is nestled in the central panel of the tray (shown). Elsasser’s name is included in the list of painters in Hans Dieter Flach’s truly monumental book on the factory, “Ludwigsburger Porzellan” (1997), but at the time of publication this set was not known, so Dr. Flach made no reference to it or to any existing signature by Elsasser. This new information has been noted in his recent article "Ludwigsburger Keramic-Maler" in "Ludwigsburger Geschichtsblatter: Historischer Verein fur Stadt und Kreis Ludwigsburg e.V." He illustrates this set in print for the first time on page 57. Dr. Flach has spent over 30 years compiling information on the artists at Ludwigsburg. Out of the 209 artists who worked at the factory, only 65 have had any of their porcelain decoration identified.
A tete-a-tete is a tea service for two people, and here includes the tray, coffee pot (or hot water holder), teapot, sugar and two cups and saucers. Elsasser somehow managed to include his signature, even though at Ludwigsburg—as at Meissen—artists were not allowed to sign their works. Any signature is extremely rare. There is some mystery surrounding his stay at Ludwigsburg. He was, like his father David Elsasser before him, a full-time artist at Meissen, but he left that factory (with a letter of recommendation from Meissen!) and traveled to Ludwigsburg to join the staff. One researcher thinks that this was a case of industrial espionage, that Elsasser was assigned by Meissen to learn some technical or decorative aspects of porcelain-making at Ludwigsburg. Or perhaps he was sent to try and convince some of the better Ludwigsburg artists to return with him to Meissen. These speculations may or may not be true, but it is known that when Elsasser returned to Meissen he was granted an annual pension. (It may also be pertinent to mention that the father, David Elsasser, had already traveled to France and had been instrumental in convincing Acier to join the Meissen staff. Coincidence?) In any event, whatever the personal history may be, this impressive set is unique and would be one of the stars of any collection of Ludwigsburg porcelain or of continental porcelain.
Condition: both tray handles have been reglued and small pieces restored. The surface is rubbed and flawed in places. (Unusually, the bottom is painted.) One section of the raised rim has been reglued. One cup has a chipped footrim. One saucer has been broken in four pieces and reglued. The sugar bowl has a small rim chip (restored). The lid of the larger pot has been in pieces and well reglued. Amazingly, there is only slight gilt wear and the paintings in the neoclassical style are fresh and bright. I haven’t managed to identify the source, but most likely it is a compilation of etchings taken from discoveries at Pompeii. The factory had thousands of etchings on hand to use as patterns for decoration. As to size, the large pot is a little less than nine inches tall, and a cup is two and one-quarter inches. There are pieces of tape on the bottoms placing this set in the Goodell Collection, but I haven’t been able to trace any information on this. I’m unable to include as many photos as I wanted, so please ask to see more if you’re interested in adding this magnificent set to your collection. It is a unique memorial of antique 18th-century German or European porcelain.
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