18th century Meissen (page in reconstruction)
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 very young alchemist Böttger who had acquired the reputation of knowing to transmute metals into gold. This is not possible and the Elector was upset. He experimented with very high temperatures to which he subjected 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.
1725 Pair of Beakers
2021 SOLD for $ 1.23M by Sotheby's
They are decorated with colored chinoiseries in cartouches on an underglaze blue background.
A pair 35 cm high in the same shape with simpler chinoiseries in the cartouches, dated ca 1725-1730, was sold by Sotheby's for $ 870K in the same sale as above, lot 50.
Both lots are illustrated in the tweet below.
In the same sale, lot 47, sold for $ 810K, was a single beaker vase 23 cm high in a simpler form, dated ca 1727-1730. It is painted of colored chinoiseries over a sky blue tinted background, and applied with two large white meandering vines.
Again in the same sale, lot 24, sold for $ 1.1M, was a 15 cm high stem Meissen goblet made ca 1725, also decorated with chinoiseries, whose shape and 'famille verte' process appear as directly competing against the Qing porcelains.
1727 Mantel Clock
2021 SOLD for $ 1.6M by Sotheby's
This piece 44 cm high is made on a sculptural porcelain mantel fitted with a dial signed ca 1700 by a Parisian clockmaker and gilt bronze mounted in the mid 18th century. It is dated 1727 and inscribed Meissen in underglaze blue on the finial.
Its finial is a group of Minerva, the goddess of the arts, with her rival Arachne soon to be turned into a spider as narrated by Ovid. Chinoiseries in cartouches in front and side panels are a reference to the newly expected rivalry of Saxon against Chinese porcelains.
The pierced mantel body and the feet are decorated with scrolls and pilasters plus several figures including a kneeling supplicant in the round. The reverse is painted with blossoms emerging from a rock. The bright colors include turquoise, iron red, purple, green, gilt and black.
This set of exuberant figures had been designed in the lifetime of Johann Christian Kirchner, probably by his younger brother Johann Gottlieb, and modeled by Fritzsche. It was certainly produced for the Japanese Palace of Augustus the Strong in Dresden. 26 clock cases are known from that period.
#AuctionUpdate This 'Highly Important Documentary and Dated Meissen Mantel Clock Case' from 1727 brings $1.6 million. It is one of only five clocks of this model that appear to have survived by the early 20th century, two of which are in museum collections. #SothebysDecArts pic.twitter.com/6z2TSfZ0fU— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) September 14, 2021
1731 Tea and Coffee Service
2021 SOLD for $ 1.35M by Sotheby's
It is made of a coffee-pot, a teapot, an ovoid tea canister, an oval sugar box, a circular waste bowl and six teabowls and saucers. They are still equipped with their covers as applicable. The coffee pot is 22 cm high and the sugar box is dated 1731.
All pieces are decorated with the coat of arms of the Venetian Morosini family and some of them with chinoiseries.
Animal metaphors are in the fashion. Augustus commissions around 1730 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 Japanese Palace 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. 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 J. G. Kirchner produced original clay statues of birds and other small animals in life size. He was assisted from 1731 by J.J. Kändler.
This new technique is particularly difficult for large figures. Glaze cannot be applied by dipping. The heat treatment creates shrinkages and cracks, to such an extent that their coloring, illusory in terms of yield, is not developed. They should have been colored but the enamel does not adhere to that porcelain.
1732 Pair of Herons
2005 SOLD for € 5.6M by Christie's
1732 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 on models by Kirchner was sold for £ 2.8M by Christie's on December 18, 2006, lot 51. Designed in 1732, they were made in white Meissen porcelain, with some examples of the inevitable firing faults of that process.
They came directly from property in a branch of the royal family of Saxony.
2002 SOLD for £ 1.05M by Christie's
2016 SOLD for £ 840K by Christie's
2002 SOLD for £ 830K by Christie's
Other items from the menagerie include a monkey, sold for £ 820K by Sotheby's on May 1, 2013, lot 78.
1733 Sitting Lioness
2011 SOLD for € 1.08M by Lempertz
Coming now from a private collection, this unpublished specimen was sold for € 1.08M from a lower estimate of € 800K by Lempertz on November 17, 2011.
1755 Royal Snuff Box
2011 SOLD for £ 860K by Bonhams
Augustus dies in 1733 before the population of the porcelain menagerie is sufficient to perform a group exhibition that will never be realized. His successors continued to protect Meissen, whose commercial edition of small pieces in brilliant colors became the specialty.
The stabilization of techniques and colors and the diversification of themes was the work of Johann Joachim Kändler who devoted to it the last forty years of his life. A pair of swans in Meissen porcelain from a model by Kändler around 1747 or 1748, was sold by Sotheby's on October 2, 2008 for € 660K, lot 18. They were presented on Louis XV gilt bronze rocaille bases.