Hand-held History

When I visited the umbrella museum near Stresa in Italy (I recommend it – such variety) a few years ago, my curiosity was piqued. I vowed to seek other special-focus museums in my travels.

The porcelain museum in Zurich fitted this brief quite nicely so I decided to have a peek.

“The porcelain museum has all the trappings of excitement,” the BB said when I told him of my upcoming adventure. Little did he know. Porcelain is hand-held history. But the history and the excitement start before one reaches the display.

The Zunfthaus zur Meisen is a guild house built in the Rococo style in 1757 in the Lindenhof quarter.  The ornate and beautiful gate, made by the process known as puddling, contributes to an elegance which the Baroque interiors continue.

The museum, one of the seven sites of the Swiss National Museum, is a large room which would take perhaps ten minutes to cover with a cursory glance at all the exhibits. You’ll want to do more than that; there is huge variety of wares.

The exhibition provides an overview of Swiss porcelain and faience manufacture in the 18th century. Faience is fine, pale earthenware covered in a glaze containing tin oxide which is white, shiny and opaque. It was originally associated with Faenza in northern Italy. The earliest tin-glazed pottery appears to have been made in Iraq, Iran or somewhere in the Middle East before or during the ninth century. Apparently, it was a major advance in the history of pottery.

Best not to think too closely about the physiology of this piece when actually using it.

The pieces in the exhibition date from 1745. This magnificent heater was made in 1755. I have seen similar ones in use in homes and refugios in Italy and Germany.

A veritable village of finely-wrought figurines show life as it was.

The museum is opposite Fraumunster Abbey on Munsterhof.                                  It is open Thursday to Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm.
Entrance is CHF 3. Children under 16 are free.

4 responses to “Hand-held History

  1. Nice post. I also love seeing these porcelains.

  2. What a great exhibition in a really wonderful part of the world. There certainly are some interesting pieces in that museum! xx

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