From Terracotta to Porcelain
Except otherwise stated, all results include the premium.
See also : Meissen Russia 1700-1900 Ancient French furniture 18th century furniture Louis XIV to XVI
Chronology : 1430-1459
1450 Madonna and Child by Luca della Robbia
2021 SOLD for $ 2M by Sotheby's
On January 28, 2021, Sotheby's sold for $ 2M from a lower estimate of $ 700K a terracotta made by Luca around 1450, lot 2. The Madonna in half length holds the Child in her arms. The 10 cm deep relief is boxed in a 47 x 40 cm false frame.
The figures are beautiful, with a sympathetic exchange of glances and a caress by the Child. The characters are white on a sky blue background. The frame imitates marble. Another example from the same mold is known.
On January 25, 2017, Sotheby's sold for $ 550K from a lower estimate of $ 150K a 52 x 42 cm relief. The naked Child is standing on the frame and puts a hand around his mother's neck, but they do not look at each other.
The origin of this image is a painting by Fra Filippo Lippi. The relief was created by Luca around 1460. This version is a replica around 1490-1500 by his nephew Andrea, with white figures on a blue background as in the example above.
This treatment of terracotta was exclusive to the della Robbia family and ensured its prosperity for a century. The details of the technique have not been disclosed.
#AuctionUpdate: And we're off! This charming mid-15th century relief of the Madonna and Child by Luca della Robbia, one of the very rare autograph works by the artist to have come onto the market in recent times achieves $2 million, a new auction record for the artist pic.twitter.com/Bx8QDX0rBB— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) January 28, 2021
Terracotta attributed to Donatello
2008 SOLD for $ 5.6M by Sotheby's
Three high reliefs in painted terracotta of the Virgin and Child have some features in common although the scenes are different. The Child is energetic and authoritarian. The loving and thoughtful Mother seeks more to protect him from dangers than to maintain empathy. The clothes are the subject of a rich polychromy mixed with gilding.
These pigmented reliefs are not similar to the glazed terracotta supplied by the della Robbias for private devotion. They are original artworks of which no period copy has been identified. Two of them have an early Florentine provenance. If Donatello is their author, they were produced in his last Florentine period, after 1450.
The Virgin and Child in front of a curtain, 102 x 74 cm, is preserved in the Louvre. The Virgin and Child with four Cherubs, 100 x 70 x 20 cm, preserved in the Bode Museum in Berlin, lost its polychromy in a war fire.
The other image, 86 x 68 cm, is unusual in its composition and strong expressions, including the presence in the background of two hilarious cherubs. The polychromy has been well preserved despite some overpainting. Considered as an authentic Donatello work by Pope-Hennessy, it was sold by Sotheby's on January 24, 2008 for $ 5.6M from a lower estimate of $ 2M, lot 75. It is illustrated in the auction report shared by Artnet.
1520-1523 Samson and Delilah by Nicola da Urbino
2021 SOLD for £ 1.26M by Lyon and Turnbull
His style and themes are in the follow of Raphael. He used as models period engravings to which he added delightful colors and a lively attitude of his characters in action.
On October 6, 2021, Lyon and Turnbull sold for £ 1.26M a previously unknown maiolica dish 27 cm in diameter and 5.3 cm high, lot 64. It is illustrated in the post sale release. Please watch the video shared by the auction house. This piece is attributed to Nicola ca 1520-1523. It is staging Samson (Sanson) and Delilah (Dalida) in an architectural surrounding with five soldiers entering.
On December 17, 2009, Christie's sold for € 1.2M a tondino 27.5 cm in diameter, lot 50. It displays the story of Aphrodite offering the golden apples in the race of Hippomenes and Atalanta. Its center has two putti holding the arms of the Gonzaga and Este families. This dish was part of the service supplied in 1524 by Nicola to Isabella d'Este, the successful art sponsor who was the mother in law of the duke of Urbino..
On July 5, 2012, Christies sold for £ 230K a plate 26 cm in diameter inscribed by Nicola da Urbino ca 1530-1533, lot 4. This piece with the coat of arms of the Marquesses of Montferrat is a joint tribute to architecture and sculpture personified by the ancient Vitruvius and the modern Michael (Michelangelo).
On the same day in another catalogue, Christie's sold for £ 460K an istoriato charger 39 cm in diameter, made ca 1528-1532 probably in Urbino, lot 76. It is finely illustrated with the scene of the birth of St John the Baptist attended by many characters in a sumptuous vaulted bedroom.
Early 16th-century maiolica plate depicting Delilah after cutting off a lock of Samson’s hair sold for $1,715,790 in @LyonandTurnbull's sale of works of art from Lowood House https://t.co/dokcPKzljr #antiques #antique #Samson #majolica #art #artist #Delilah pic.twitter.com/gh4SPPAome— Maine Antique Digest (@AntiqueDigest) December 3, 2021
His ambition was as excessive as his physical strength. Megalomaniac and tempted by absolutism, he was inspired by Versailles to beautify his capital Dresden. He wanted that the furnishings and celebrations of his network of palaces exceed Versailles in luxury and changed his mistresses as frequently as the Roi Soleil had done.
Augustus sheltered in Dresden the young alchemist Böttger who had acquired the reputation of knowing to transmute metals into gold. This is not possible and the Elector was upset. Also trying to create gemstones from clay, he applied very high temperatures to kaolin-based pastes. He thus created ca 1708 for the first time in Europe a hard porcelain comparable to the Chinese porcelain.
Augustus immediately understood the interest of this invention for his own prestige. In 1709 he authorizes the establishment of the Meissen factory, near Dresden, where a kaolin mine was operated. Production starts in the following year and the first painted pieces are made in 1713. He also collected ceramics from all sources in order to demonstrate the superiority of his new Saxon porcelain.
The originality of Meissen lies in the realization of real sculptures in the round, in the opposite to the Chinese porcelain that has a utilitarian purpose and a geometrical shape.
Animal metaphors are in the fashion. Augustus commissions a porcelain menagerie in which the smaller animals would be life-size, the birds often in groups of four or eight. Entire rooms will have to be devoted to their exhibition in his Japanisches Palais in Dresden. Meissen artists begin to prepare hundreds of subjects.
The menagerie of porcelains prepared for Augustus is the most spectacular achievement of the early Meissen. It is part of a larger project of Porzellanschloss centered on a porcelain throne, conceived in 1728. The Elector was maintaining in the taste of his time a menagerie of live animals that served as models for the Meissen artists. His active and enthusiastic participation in the biggest animal tossing contests nevertheless disqualifies him as a friend of the beasts.
The modeller Johann Gottlieb Kirchner produced original clay statues of birds and other small animals in life size. He was assisted from June 1731 by Johann Joachim Kändler.
This new technique is particularly difficult for large figures. Glaze cannot be applied by dipping. The final heating at 1400 °C creates shrinkages and cracks. The enamel coloring poorly adheres to that porcelain and was removed a few decades later while most of the pieces were still at the factory.
Pair of Herons
2005 SOLD for € 5.6M by Christie's
One of the birds is catching a frog in its beak on the rocky ground. Its companion has a raised head. The background is a stump surrounded by reeds. They match the models 51 and 52 in the nomenclature of the Meissen menagerie.
A record in the Meissen archives for 1732 attributes the herons to Kändler. They are indeed in his typical style, based on a lively observation of nature.
Lion and Lioness
2006 SOLD for £ 2.8M by Christie's
A pair of 50 cm high and 80 cm wide sculptures featuring recumbent lion and lioness was sold for £ 2.8M by Christie's on December 18, 2006, lot 51. They were directly coming from a branch of the Royal House of Saxony.
Designed in 1732, they are in white Meissen porcelain, with some examples of the inevitable firing faults of that process.
The model is attributed to Kirchner, probably from engravings. The near human gaze is typical from that artist.
1763 Table à Ecrire with Sèvres by Joseph
2005 SOLD for € 6.9M by Artcurial
The cabinetmaker Joseph Baumhauer, whose stamp is limited to his first name, creates furniture with simple shapes, embellished with metal, hard stones, finely chiseled bronzes and lacquer panels. He is a specialist of the top luxury and court-empowered, and his production is scarce.
The best Sèvres porcelains are marked with a code corresponding to the year, which today helps dating the furniture they adorn.
A bureau plat was assembled by Joseph using porcelain dated H for 1760. Three other examples of this model are known. One of them was sold for € 6.9M by Artcurial on December 13, 2005 from a lower estimate of € 800K.
This desk 76 x 114 x 58 cm is stamped by Joseph. It is in rosewood and amaranth veneer and opens with three drawers on the front. It is decorated all around with 24 plaques in Sèvres porcelain decorated with polychrome flowers. A third of the plaques bear the letter K for 1763. The decoration is completed by gilded bronzes.
The Graf von Cobenzl, diplomat and trusted man of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, was a client of Poirier. The desk sold by Artcurial is probably the "table à écrire incrustée de porcelaine de Sèvres" which is listed in his inventory after death.
1784 Console with Sèvres by Carlin
2002 SOLD for £ 2.65M by Christie's
The traceability is excellent. The porcelains are signed and dated with a letter code. For the two consoles below, Daguerre's purchases have been identified unambiguously in the Sèvres archives. In 1784 he had only acquired three sets of plaques, five and three plaques in a group purchase, then five plaques. In the second half of 1786, Daguerre's only purchase was a set of five plaques at the same prices as the first batch of 1784. Daguerre had this type of furniture made by Carlin.
From 1976 to 1979, the two consoles dessertes belonged to the exceptional collection of Akram Ojjeh. They are of the same model, with three plaques on the front face and two side plates. The porcelain flower paintings were monogramed by the same artist. The consoles are in solid mahogany with identical dimensions, 91 x 135 x 51 cm.
The earliest, considered as a prototype, had not been kept by Ojjeh. The porcelains are dated 1784 and it is stamped by Carlin. It was sold by Christie's on December 12, 2002 for £ 2.65M from a lower estimate of £ 1M, lot 50.
On the other console, the porcelains dated 1786 have thus been made after Carlin's death. It was probably assembled by Weisweiler. Coming from the Ojjeh estate, it was sold for FF 10M by Christie's on December 11, 1999 from a lower estimate of FF 5M.
1807-1809 Sèvres Marli Rouge Service
2018 SOLD for $ 1.8M by Christie's
This porcelain ware was ready in October 1809, but the concerns of the emperor had changed. Compiègne had been used for a few months to house the King of Spain, whom Napoléon had just dismissed, and the emperor is preparing to divorce his beloved Joséphine, unable to give him an heir. The services are delivered to Fontainebleau.
The dessert service is described as "fond rouge, papillons et fleurs" in the archives of Sèvres, and more commonly as the "marly rouge service". The marli, formerly marly, designates the sloping crown of a plate.
This large service dated from 1807 to 1809 was originally composed of 180 plates decorated with a butterfly in the center as well as a wreath of flowers in a circular band, 36 smaller fruit plates, 16 compotiers in two models, 4 bowls, 4 sucriers, 4 ice buckets in two models, and 8 baskets in two models also. Pieces of form display animal details : dolphin foot, eagle head, elephant head, eagle chick hatching from egg.
Napoléon took this service in his exile on the island of Elba. In 1829 it was presented as a wedding gift by the former king Jérôme to his son. It will be dispersed in the 20th century. Subsets sometimes appear at auction. A group of 12 plates was sold for £ 81K by Bonhams on July 5, 2018.
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller owned 22 pieces acquired around 1940. This set of 12 plates, 6 compotiers, a cooler, two sugar bowls and a jatte surfaced in the collection of her son David auctioned by Christie's on May 9, 2018. It was sold for $ 1.8M from a lower estimate of $ 150K, lot 118.
2013 SOLD for £ 2.2M by Sotheby's
During the 1920s that were so difficult economically for Russia, one of these pairs was purchased by an American oil tycoon to garnish his mansion in Oklahoma City. They were in this place since so long that the heirs were not aware of their historical importance and felt them rather cumbersome.
Like all other pieces in this category, they are bandeau shaped with gilt handles of acanthus leaves. The picture on one of them, showing a concert, is a copy of a painting that was lent by the Hermitage to the Factory in 1832 to serve as a model.
The porcelains of Oklahoma are dated 1833 and their height, 1.38 m, is particularly noteworthy. The pair had been announced in an auction scheduled for April 17, 2013 with an estimate of $ 1M to 1.5M. The auction house, Dallas Auction Gallery, had preferred to accept an offer before the sale and the pair was removed. Bloomberg reported for this private transaction a price of $ 2.7M. It was sold for £ 2.2M by Sotheby's on November 26, 2013. Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's.
The later pair unsold at Christie's in November 2011, dated 1835 and 1836, had the same size. Made still later, in 1848, the pair sold £ 2.6M by Sotheby's on 10 June 2009 had the largest size reached during the reign of Nicholas, 1.50 m.
2009 SOLD for £ 2.6M by Sotheby's
Financially, these gifts were offset by increasing orders from the Emperor for offering similar pieces to his allies in the ruling royal and ducal families of other countries. Gifting had an important role for maintaining the aristocratic cohesion at the Imperial court of Russia.
The pair of porcelain vases from St. Petersburg sold by Sotheby's on June 10, 2009 for £ 2.6M from a lower estimate of £ 1.2M is a technical feat. Dated 1848, 1.5 m high, it is the largest format that has been done at that time by this factory.
These monumental vases are adorned with ring shaped reproductions of paintings from the collection of Catherine the Great, in this case two stables scenes of Philips Wouwerman.