Tuesday, October 31, 2006

White Gold

From the Telegraph:
In the 18th century, porcelain was so coveted by Europeans that they called it "white gold". Not much has changed. A porcelain lion and lioness are expected to smash the world record for Meissen when they are sold at Christie's in December.
Though the beasts, made in the 1730s, are chipped, suffer from cracks and have a slightly haughty air, Rodney Woolley, Christie's top ceramics expert, has valued them at up to £5 million — £1.5 million above the previous record price for Meissen porcelain.
A combination of the animals' size, quality and rarity made the pair "the Mona Lisa" of the ceramics world, he claimed yesterday.
Their history is no less extraordinary and in the recent past they survived the Allied destruction of Dresden and then confiscation by the Soviet Union. The secret of porcelain manufacture was, until the early 18th century, known only to the Chinese and Japanese and the pure white ceramic ware, fired at incredibly high temperatures, was highly valued in Europe.

Don Jim links to 'Done with Mirrors' on the goose-step:
The curious thing that nobody seems to question is, why is it called the "goose step?" Geese waddle, sway from side to side as they move on their feet on land. It looks nothing like a "goose step."
Turns out, the original goose step (it dates back to the Napoleonic era, naturally) was a military drill to teach balance. You stood on each leg alternately and swung the other back and forth. This at least looks vaguely like a goose's way of walking. It must have acquired a general sense of "militaristic way of marching" by the time it was applied to "marching without bending the knees." That seems to first have happened in 1916. Like much of the horrible ugliness of the 20th century, it seems to have its roots in WW1.
I remember reading somewhere that Prussian officers liked to use the goose-step as a sort of 'field sobriety test' for their men.

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