All Columns in Alphabetical Order

Monday, November 15, 2010


Rare surviving items from the world-famous collection of Meissen porcelain assembled by Gustav and Charlotte von Klemperer from the late nineteenth century, which miraculously survived Nazi looting and the 1945 bombing of Dresden, are to be auctioned at Bonhams New Bond Street on 8thDecember 2010.

Edmund de Waal has written an evocative account of the collection, “Fragments can be more powerful than things kept whole...Pick up the vase made for Augustus the Strong in 1730. It is a shard, but it has survived not just the ferocity of a kiln, but a terrible century. When you pick it up it tells you about beauty, about a family and about survival.” (Bonhams magazine) 
Von Klemperer (1852-1926), chairman of the Dresdner Bank, collected 834 pieces of fine Meissen over a period of three decades and it is commonly considered to have been the greatest ever collection of Meissen porcelain of the modern collecting era. After his death it passed to his descendants, before being seized by the Nazis after Kristallnacht in November 1938. The large collection failed to reach a permanent home as debate continued over where to house it. From 1943 it was stored outside of Dresden, yet inadequate conditions and the danger of the approaching Russians on the Eastern front forced the need for a new home. 
On the night of 13th February 1945 a truck was parked in the palace yard packed with all the pieces – plates, figurines, animals, vases, a chandelier and more, when bombs fell on the city and it was assumed that the entire collection was destroyed. It was only after the war, when they sifted through the rubble in the castle courtyard, that museum staff recovered several whole pieces along with numerous fragments of the glorious originals. “It is miraculous that any of these fragile pieces survived the bombs at all,” says Sebastian Kuhn, Bonhams Continental Porcelain specialist.  The surviving pieces were incorporated into the historic Dresden State porcelain collection.
In 1991 many of the surviving pieces were returned to the descendants of von Klemperer, who in turn left most of the porcelain in the museum as a gift.  The descendants comment, “our family is scattered throughout the globe and rather than distribute small lots to individual family members, we felt these pieces belong together, to be viewed as part of a collection. What better place to do this than at the Dresden State porcelain collection, a few hundred metres from where the entire collection was originally housed.”
This auction includes the sale of an additional group of 43 lots from this collection - many of the pieces are restored or in a fragmented condition highly evocative of the traumas of war. Some plates have been conserved, others are offered in fragments and could be restored in future, and there are figures being sold with their broken heads and missing limbs.
Sebastian Kuhn comments, “These pieces – even those in a fragmentary state – are evidence of the exceptional quality and rarity of the Meissen porcelain owned by Gustav von Klemperer, probably the greatest collector since the 18th century. They are also an evocative reminder of the terrible fate of the collection.”

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's oldest and largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son and Neale UK. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street, and Knightsbridge, and a further five throughout the UK. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Boston in the USA; Toronto, Canada; and France, Monaco, Hong Kong, Australia and Dubai. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 57 specialist areas. By the end of 2009, Bonhams had become UK market leaders in ten key specialist collecting areas.For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, go to

Back to TOP