Augustus the Strong united in a personal capacity the crowns of Saxony and Poland, under the names of Frederick Augustus I and Augustus II respectively. Megalomaniac and tempted by absolutism, he was inspired by Versailles to beautify his capital Dresden.
The alchemist Böttger was looking for the Philosopher's Stone in the service of Augustus and of course he could not find it. He experimented with very high temperatures to which he subjected kaolin-based pastes. He thus created 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 1710, he founded the Meissen porcelain factory, near Dresden. He had then collected ceramics from all sources in order to demonstrate the superiority of his new Saxon porcelain.
Animal metaphors are in the fashion. Augustus conceives 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.
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.
The death of Augustus in February 1733 put an end to the commission of the specific menagerie, but his successor continued to protect Meissen, whose commercial edition of small figures in brilliant colors became the specialty.
A pair of 50 cm high and 80 cm wide sculptures showing recumbent lion and lioness was sold for £ 2.8M including premium 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 period. They had remained with the descendants of Augustus.