The Meissen Porcelain Factory, founded in 1710 in the town of Meissen, Germany, by Augustus II, ‘the Strong’, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, was the first European manufactory to master the creation of true hard-paste porcelain. Grand dinner services in Baroque style were an important part of the factory’s early output. This pair of porcelain stands, probably intended to sit under small tureens, was part of such a service and is decorated in poly-chrome enamels with sprigs of flowers, insects in the so-called ‘ombrierte’ (shadowed) style and garlands of flowers tied with blue ribbons executed in a naturalistic style derived from botanical woodcuts. The centre of the well of one stand is painted with an image of a mountain goat eating foliage, while the well of the other stand bears a painting of a camelid of some variety, probably a llama.
The stands’ decoration is in a style very closely related to the so-called ‘Hanbury-Williams’, or Duke of Northumberland, service produced at the Meissen Factory between 1748 and 1750 and gifted by Augustus III to Sir Charles Hanbury-Williams, British Envoy to the Saxon Court. The Hanbury-Williams service, a large part of which is owned by the Dukes of Northumberland today and held at their seat of Alnwick Castle, consisted of 377 pieces and was decorated with naturalistic botanical flowers and depictions of animals, both European and exotic, on relief-pattern forms created by Johann Joachim Kändler in 1745 and known as the Neuer Aufschnitt design. T. H. Clarke identified a number of print sources for the on-glaze enamel decoration, including the animal engravings of Johann Elias Ridinger published in Augsburg in 1738 and the floral engravings of J. W. Weinmann’s Phytanthoza Iconographia (1735–45). Some of the insects can be traced to engravings by Jacob Hoefnagel (1575–1630), after drawings by his father Georg (1542–1600), published in Frankfurt in 1592.
The Hanbury-Williams service represents one of the most richly decorated services produced by Meissen in the eighteenth century. Part of another service, of very similar decoration to the Hanbury-Williams service and referred to as the ‘Sutherland’ service, has recently come to light in a European private collection. As a number of the forms in this service do not match those on the inventory of the Hanbury-Williams service from 1751 (when it was shipped to England), it appears that two services of identical decoration, for two different clients, were produced at Meissen at the same time. However, the present stands, whose floral and animal decoration is identical to these other examples, do not appear to be part of either service. The Hanbury-Williams and Sutherland services include a gilt rim as part of their decoration, whereas the present pair of stands employs a painted brown line in place of the gold. This suggests the pair belongs to a third service employing this extremely rich decorative scheme.
Matthew Martin, Assistant Curator, decorative Arts, National Gallery of Victoria (in 2014)