There are many marks for the Meissen Blue Onion pattern. This is the best known, most widely distributed and most copied porcelain created in Meissen. At the turn of the 18th century white and blue porcelain from the Orient was very much in demand. According to Robert E. Rontgen in his book The Book of Meissen Second Edition, the model for the Onion Pattern was probably a flat bowl from the Chinese K’ang Hsi Period (1662-1722). The Meissen painters closely followed the original model, but they did not fully understand the Chinese pattern. Therefore, they adapted it to a more familiar pattern. This pattern was also called the “bulb pattern” with the center flower described as an aster, peony or chrysanthemum. The original fruits around the border were alternating peaches and pomegranates, not onions. The large blossom with the bamboo cane is often called an aster. It may have originally been the tree or mountain peony, common in China but which the Meissen painters would not have been familiar. The “onion pattern” as it became known was very popular and a large amount of it was manufactured. Manufacturers in France, England, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, Japan and Germany copied the pattern.The Royal Prussian Manufactory in Berlin was one of Meissen’s important competitors. In the 1880’s production of the blue onion pattern wares included table clothes and napkins, enamelled cooking pots and metal boxes, skirts, shawls, and blouses. Because of increased demand a number of European factories copied the pattern and reproduced it not only on porcelain but also on stoneware.
As I initially wrote, there are many Meissen marks relating to the different factories that produced this pattern. How do you know if it is German Meissen? Much early Meissen was not marked although the name “Meissen” was impressed on early pieces which were not of the highest quality because the best method of firing and formula for the porcelain had not been perfected. These pieces had a slightly greyish tint. Because the onion pattern was not protected by a trademark, every one could use the pattern. In1888 after the Meissen Stove and Fireclay Factory registered a trademark that contained the name “Meissen” in 1882, the Meissen Manufactory decided to protect its name. To make their product easily identifiable a mark of crossed swords with pommels was placed on the base of the bamboo cane on the front of the piece as well as the crossed swords on the back. Although this helps to date the piece, the variety of Meissen marks and copies of Meissen marks can be very confusing without a good reference book.