Underglaze painting is performed on the still porous porcelain once it has been “biscuited” in an initial firing conducted at about 950 degrees Centigrade. The body can now be painted on, is absorbent and non-water-soluble. The painter requires a calm and steady hand when applying the paint, usually cobalt blue. It is immediately absorbed by the porous ceramic body and any mistake made cannot be rectified. The porcelain is subsequently glazed and fired at about 1,400 degrees Centigrade. In a quite astonishing turn of events, the blackish grey cobalt oxide now mutates into a gleaming cobalt blue and the porcelain shrinks by about 16 per cent.
The Blue Swords, the Manufactory’s world-famous trademark, are painted onto every single piece of porcelain by hand, likewise in underglaze cobalt blue. In the case of Meissen’s Onion Pattern, they are even incorporated into the pattern as well. It is then possible to detect at a glance whether the piece really is a hand-painted Meissen original. This is very necessary given that Meissen’s Onion Pattern is now imitated all over the world.