MAIOLICA & PORCELAIN
Hard porcelain bear modeled and painted in gray-brown and black
Manufacture of Meissen, by Johann Gottlieb Kirchner and Johan Joachim Kaendler, 1735
It measures: 2.79 x 3.81 x 2.48 in (7.1 x 9.7 x 6.3 cm)
State of conservation: a glued paw.
Meissen porcelain has dominated the European market ever since it was first produced. The German manufacturer was the first to produce porcelain in Europe and had a stable production as early as the second decade of the XVIII century. A great enthusiast, Prince Augustus the Strong of Saxony, in fact, invested a lot of capital and energy in producing the precious material. Under the very same Augustus, some of the greatest sculptors and artists of the late Baroque period were called upon to participate in the enterprise: among these Johann Gottlieb Kirchner (1706–1768) and Johan Joachim Kaendler (1706–1775), who were particularly renowned for both delightful animal figures and an imaginative and very wide production of figures and characters.
This small hard porcelain sculpture shows a seated bear with its head lowered toward its legs. The animal has a docile attitude and looks up at the viewer from below. The small form is made with the style and technique characteristic of Johann Gottlieb Kirchner, and is an exact miniature replica of the well-known large sculpture from 1732 (now in the Animal Gallery of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden). Indeed, it shares all the features of the large sculpture. Precisely for this model, Otto Walcha hypothesizes a collaboration between the two artists: Kirchner would have forged the bear, and Kaendler would have provided the finishing touches on the fur, as the former was unable to work due to an illness. (Otto Walcha, Meissen Porzellan, Dresda, 1973, p. 468, n. 29). This bear matches Kaendler’s models: its fur is highlighted by minute incisions and then painted with thin brush strokes which meet on the muzzle. These strokes then fall neatly down the back, starting from the vertebrae.
However, in the archive documents, it is recorded that both Modellmeisters (master modelers) created large-sized bear models for Augustus the Strong’s Japanese Palace.
From the archives, it is also documented that multiple copies of the large-sized bear model, both in achrome and polychrome versions, were produced for the Japanese Palace. On the other hand, there were only three colored specimens of the small-sized bear model produced in 1735, each measuring 7 centimeters like ours. (S. Wittwer, The gallery of Meissen animals: Augustus the Strong’s menagerie for the Japanese palace in Dresden, Monaco 2006, p. 303). Only a few pieces had the crossed swords mark under the paw, and it is also absent in our specimen
Cover Photo: Fabrizio Stipari
S. Wittwer, The gallery of Meissen animals: Augustus the Strong’s menagerie for the Japanese palace in Dresden, Monaco 2006;