Monday, September 9, 2013

Figure of the Day: A Meissen Shepherd, c. 1750

Hard-paste Porcelain Figure
Meissen, c. 1750
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This Meissen figure was modeled by my preferred Eighteenth-Century, German porcelain guy, Johann Joachim Kändler, (1706 -1775). We’ve looked at several idealized depictions of shepherds and shepherdesses, like this one, which were made by Meissen during the 1750s. The fashion spread from France and Germany to Britain. While the French, and, sometimes the Germans, would, as we know, display these figure groups on a dining table as an amusement during the dessert course, the British, on the whole, preferred to use them as decorative objects in parlors and salons.

In Germany, these sorts of figures replaced figures which, from medieval times to the early Eighteenth Century, were made of sugar paste and wax. Originally, the figures would denote political and social allegiances or family milestones, but by the time they had begun to be made in the more permanent medium of porcelain, the depictions were largely decorative. 

It’s possible this figure was among a large lot of Meissen porcelain which had been smuggled into England around 1750. Before 1775, continental porcelain could only be imported if it was for personal use, and not for resale. Much porcelain from Germany was imported illegally, stated as for personal use, but, then re-sold. The figure seems to have been made for export to Britain. The shepherd is, after all, playing bagpipes and the enamel colors of puce, pale yellow and sea-green are certainly those which were most popular in Britain at the time.

Not surprisingly, he's part of a group of other bag-pipe wielding shepherds.   I'm not sure how many there are.

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