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Manufacture and decoration Meissen, ca. 1737
Crossed swords mark in underglaze blue, caduceus
Silver-gilt mount by Elias Adam, Augsburg, 1737–39
When undertaking a journey, eighteenth-century aristocrats customarily took to the road armed with services for the luxury beverages, coffee, tea, and chocolate in velvet or silk-lined leather cases, ensuring that they would not have to do without some of the comforts and pleasures they were used to enjoying at court. These ensembles were usually magnificently designed and highly suitable for use as diplomatic gifts of the kind frequently made by the Saxon-Polish court to its allies. As early as 1724/25, the Polish King and Saxon Elector Augustus the Strong commissioned just such a travelling service “with a red leather case lined with green taffeta and gold lace” (Roth ledern Futteral mit grünem Daffet und goldenen Spitzen ausgemacht), as a gift to be sent to Italy for King Vittorio Amadeo II of Sardinia (1666–1732).
The present travelling service consists of a pear-shaped coffee pot with domed cover, a spherical teapot with flat cover and quatrefoil stand, a rectangular tea caddy, six tea or coffee bowls with saucers, a broth bowl with a cover that could also be used as a stand, a sugar box, a rinsing bowl, and six coffee spoons.
Two features mark out this travelling service as a particularly special and, indeed, unique example of its kind: the so-called “Celadon Couleur” ground and the Japanese Kakiemon style decoration. The turquoise-green ground colour, similar to the celadon glaze familiar from Chinese porcelain, was chosen for a large number of Meissen porcelain pieces that Augustus the Strong intended to be splendidly presented in a room of their own in his porcelain palace, the Japanese Palace in Dresden. Within the ground on these pieces are little reserves containing indianische Blumen in enamel colours that stand out radiantly against their white glaze ground. With but a few exceptions, these compositions of peonies, chrysanthemums, and asters were inspired by décors on the Japanese porcelain pieces from the Kakiemon Sakaida manufactory in Arita that Augustus the Strong so greatly admired. On the present service, the floral decoration takes the form of spray-like bouquets on the white glaze surfaces within the bowls, and of single motifs enclosed by the ground on the outsides. In the latter case, the ground had to be scraped off the areas to be occupied by the motifs before the enamel colours were applied, to prevent the latter from becoming mixed with ground colour in the firing.
The fine gold lines surrounding the decorative surfaces, the gold mounts by the Augsburg goldsmith Elias Adam, and the five gilded coffee spoons give this cased service a splendid finish, and make it a magnificent showpiece worthy of the most elevated of princes.
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