Published date: 19 Oct 2012
We learn a lot about a nation by examining what they treasure. This thought came to mind when I was listening to Sebastian Kuhn and Nette Megens of the ceramic department give an off-the-cuff talk about Meissen porcelain and why, in the 18th century, this humble substance was regarded as 'white gold'. For Augustus the Strong, the ruler of Saxony, and sufferer of 'la maladie de porcelaine', it was not just a collection – his Palace of Porcelain was tangible proof that his only equal on earth was the Emperor of China, who had a similarly extensive array.
In this issue, to mark the sale of the Marouf Collection of Meissen, Waldemar Januszczak, who was equally enthralled by the ceramic department's lecture, looks at the passion for decorating porcelain in a Chinoiserie style.Emperors, whichever side of the globe they are on, usually exercise their right to obtain the finest. Still, when I read Carol Michaelson's article about jade, I couldn't help being struck that by the time he died, the Qianlong Emperor had 30,000 pieces of jade. It helped no doubt that he demanded for every piece of jade unearthed in the Chinese empire to be presented to him for first refusal. That's an obsession.
The English, as other nations have often observed, are different. While Augustus was collecting his porcelain, the milords on the Grand Tour were flocking to Venice and bringing back vedute – scenic views of La Serenissima – to hang in their damp stately homes. As John Julius Norwich points out, this trade in paintings was one of the ways in which Venice turned itself from 'treasure house to pleasure house'. Perhaps we'll say the same about the rest of Europe in 50 years time?
Enjoy the issue.
Mark Fraser, Bonhams new Chairman in Australia, always wanted to be an auctioneer. He talks to Matthew Wilcox about his passion for collecting – and why he bunked off school
Meissen is a small town in Saxony. So why is its porcelain decorated with scenes of the exotic Orient? Waldemar Januszczak reports
Edward Burne-Jones' vision had a wide influence. Matthew Sturgis looks at the genesis of the artist who became a star of the Esthetic Movement
The Hurricane was a very British plane. It wasn't as agile as the Spitfire, but this was the machine that battled through the storm. Patrick Bishop reports
By the 18th century, Venice was in decline. But when it transformed itself from treasure house to pleasure house, the world came flocking. John Julius Norwich looks at the paintings the visitors took home
Yayoi Kusama left Japan with only a few drawings stuffed into her suitcase. Now, for the first time, these works have emerged from a private collection. Sarah Nelson reports
The Royal Academy seems to be a sedate enough place. Wrong, says Charles Saumarez Smith. Historically it's feud central. He talks to
Lucinda Bredin about this unique institution
People and robots have gone beyond Earth to send back images of our universe. Robin McKie takes a photographic voyage from the dark side of the Moon to Mars
For thousands of years, jade has been valued by the Chinese for its spiritual properties. The Emperor even wrote poems about it. Carol Michaelson tells the story
Dictionaries list where words come from – but they are also where languages go to die, says John Sutherland. He previews the sale of the Thomas Malin Rogers Collection, the largest privately owned trove of dictionaries in the world
James Cox's 'sing-song' clocks were all the rage in China.
But these fantastical creations also led to the goldsmith's downfall, says Simon de Burton
Pol Roger has always had a place in the hearts of the British, says Lucinda Bredin. Churchill even had a special cuvée named after him
Luxembourg's art museums are groundbreaking, says Lucinda Bredin
René Redzepi, the chef of Noma, the world's greatest restaurant, gets away from the stove in Copenhagen's secret garden