Thursday, May 29, 2014

Figure of the Day: Harlequin with a Bird Cage, 1743

Commedia dell'Arte-inspired German porcelain figure from the V&A
Hard-Paste Porcelain Figure of Harlequin
Meissen, 1743
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Modeled by the famed Johann Joachim Kändler (1706-1775) for the Meissen Porcelain Factory in Germany, this figure of Harlequin is crafted of hard-paste porcelain. The impish character from the Commedia dell’Arte is depicted seated on a grass-topped rock upon which a bird cage is resting. In his hand, he holds a green bird. However, at his feet is a crouching cat—not a good sign for the bird.

Such figures were made, as this one was, in the Eighteenth Century to adorn the dining tables of luxurious households during the dessert course. A renewed interest in these figures developed during the Victorian era. Many members of Britain’s upper-classes, including the Royal Family, collected these Eighteenth Century figures, actually spurring the creation of then-new figurines in the same style.

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