The Porcelain Apes of Moses Mendelssohn

In Europe, the Jews faced innumerable forms of discrimination, but perhaps the oddest was as follows. The first porcelain factories in Europe we rarely profitable, and so often needed state subsidies in order to collect the experience and quality necessary to become self-sustaining.  Frederick the Great, always eager to save the state a thaler, hit upon an unusual idea: every Jewish Prussian would, upon marriage, be required to buy a certain amount of porcelain products.  The exact objects would include whatever the porcelain factory had lying around unsold.  When Moses Mendelssohn wed, his porcelain surprise included over twenty life-size porcelain apes, surely one of the more unusual wedding presents imaginable.

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One thought on “The Porcelain Apes of Moses Mendelssohn

  1. Throughout Eastern Europe at different times, the Jewish people have been forced to undergo many different and odd proscriptions. Frederick the Great’s extortion of the Jewish people is indeed one of the odder proscriptions. Poor Mendelssohn. At least it was a quality product. After all, Prussian porcelains are collectable.

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