The NGV has particularly rich holdings of eighteenth-century porcelain sculpture, including a number of rare and important works by Continental and English factories. This is the first large-scale exhibition devoted to porcelain sculpture held at the NGV and features more than seventy works from the permanent collection.
Porcelain figures are often thought of today as merely ‘decorative’ objects, but in the eighteenth century these objects were admired as examples of the sculptor’s art and many were created by some of the leading sculptors of the day. The subjects of these refined sculptures were often mythological and allegorical and played a part in the richly symbolic visual culture of the Baroque court, particularly in Central Europe. The visual language of theatre and dance also informed much of this production. Portraits and devotional images executed in porcelain tell us of the important status that the medium held in the taste of the times. Small-scale sculptural works were among the first objects to be made in the newly mastered porcelain material at Meissen in the 1710s and 1720s, taking inspiration from imported Asian votive sculptures. The development of European porcelain images reflected a Baroque taste for cabinet sculpture, small sculptural works which were intended to be handled and appreciated at close quarters. These were often used to decorate festive banquet tables at court celebrations. Ambitious large-scale sculptures were also executed in porcelain, testing the very limits of ceramic technology.
Public programs with curators, leading academics and historians provide audiences with unique insights into the eighteenth-century porcelain sculptures on display.
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Level 2, Decorative Arts Passage