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Royal porcelain manufactory Berlin, c. 1768–71
Hard-paste porcelain, onglaze colours, gilding, fire-gilt bronze mounts
Sceptre mark in underglaze blue, press mark “xo”
H. 67 cm (263/8 in.), W. 30.5 cm (12 in.)
Dessert service for Catherine II (Stettin 1729–1796 St. Petersburg), St. Petersburg, The State Hermitage Museum (published in: Von Sanssouci nach Europa. Geschenke Friedrichs des Großen an europäische Höfe.Edited by Hans-Joachim Giersberg and Claudia Meckel. Exh.cat. Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg, Potsdam-Sanssouci, New Palace in Sanssouci, August 10 - October 16, 1994, cat. no. 19.1; Puffelska, Agnieska. „Vom zufälligen Feind zum umworbenen Freund: Friedrich II. und Russland“ in Friederisiko. Friedrich der Grosse. Exh.cat. Stiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg, New Palace and Park Sanssouci, April 28 – October 28, 2012, p. 122-127
, fig. 5, and pl. VII); dinner service of Frederick II (Berlin 1712–1786 Potsdam) for the Stadtpalais Potsdam, Sammlungen Preussische Schlösser und Gärten, Berlin-Brandenburg (published in: Köllmann, Erich. Berliner Porzellan. 1763-1963, 2 vols. Brunswick, 1966, vol. 1, pl. 10b; Völkel, Michaela. „Nicht alle Lust will Ewigkeit. Friedrich und das Porzellan.“ in Friederisiko. Friedrich der Exh.cat. Stiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg, New Palace and Park Sanssouci, April 28 – October 28, 2012, p. 190-93, fig. 3); chandelier with porcelain flowers, 1771, Potsdam, New Palace (published in Köllmann 1966, vol. II, pl. 88, fig. 363; Klappenbach, Käthe. Die Natur als Vorbild.http://www.perspectivia.net/publikationen/friedrich300-studien/klappenbach_natur/#absatz23, accessed August 17, 2015)
With its expressive sculptural form, this pair of candelabra conveys many aspects typical of Frederician taste at the time with its tendency to sentient polychromy and lyrically-formal opulence. The king, who loved his gardens and was botanically adept, preferred floral decorations as designs. Floral engravings as well as flower studies of the candelabra pair’s creation and the large services under royal consigment from the time, which are kept in the royal porcelain manufactory archives, demonstrate the earnestness with which nature was contemplated and which, in the end, adapted to porcelain and converted into entertaining compositions and ornaments that were harmoniously coherent in colour.
The picturesque and sculptural floral decorative elements of the candelabra complement the emerging curves of the foot, the stem, and sockets, with their rocaille forms as well as with the decorated flower garlands along the sockets, all supported by the functional statics of the objects. Through their metallic shimmer, the fire-gilt bronze arms of the candelabra provide a material softness and an illusion of wildly-grown tendrils through their naturalistic asymmetry and chasing. The painted decoration of the porcelain parts, kept in pallid colouration with flowers partly executed in an exact botanical manner and pale yellow fields, in addition to the shine of the glaze and the gold of the bronze in the light of the provided candles resulted in a delightful source of luminescence which was designed to adorn a magnificent table.
A particularly elaborate example of a table chart shows a dessert service for 120 persons sent to Catherine II (Stettin 1729–1796 St. Petersburg) in Russia by Frederick II (Berlin 1712–1786 Potsdam) in 1772. Its aim was to generously seal the defensive alliance, which was contracted in 1764 and confirmed in 1769, between Prussia and Russia.
The floral theme of the general décor was, however, diplomatically enriched for the Russian empress by means of the personifications of the virtues and the reign of Catherine as sculptural centre pieces. Nevertheless, the design with its numerous jardinières and vases reflects the passion for real and artificial flowers at the table.From approximately the same time the gift was presented to Catherine the Great, a service originates for the Prussian king himself, designed by Friedrich Elias Meyer (Erfurt 1724–1785 Berlin), the former Kaendler student, who became model master of the royal porcelain manufactory founded in 1763. This service was executed by Meyer around 1770/71 for the prestigious Bronze Hall of the Potsdam City Palace. With pale yellow fields in cartouches, botanically discernible European flowers in dominant purple on white ground, flower garlands and rocaille handles, the form of this service “Antikzierrat” also stands in very close proximity to the candelabra pair with its flower paintings and serene colour palette. A tureen with présentoir from this service was recently put up for auction; a plate from this service was offered at Villa Grisebach in Berlin.
In the New Palace in Potsdam is a porcelain chandelier (of originally three copies) from the royal porcelain manufactory with similar decoration of virtuosic-decorative porcelain flowers, which tie in with the French models from Vincennes/Sèvres as well as the highly respected patisserie art of the time. They are mounted on delicate gilded bronze branches which, in turn, reveal the French influence. In 1752, the native of Zurich Johann Melchior Kambly (Zurich 1718–1782 Potsdam) founded a workshop for bronze dorée with royal privilege, in which Parisian craftsmen were employed and which, in addition to large accoutrements, also participated in the manufacturing of chandeliers. A pair of appliques is held in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, with ormolu branches as chandelier arms, mounted on rocailles and decorated with the same porcelain flowers. It is dated the same as the Potsdam chandelier—from the years 1765–68 (inv. no. 2002, 437.1,2).
Numerous orders from Frederick II demonstrate the high value placed on porcelain chandeliers and appliques as gifts to the courts between Ansbach and Stockholm. The service to Catherine II was also enriched by a similar candelabra, which, albeit, is now lost. Frederick II himself participated passionately in designing the forms and choosing the colours for the porcelain. The production of the twenty-one services for the various castles was accompanied by detailed comments, suggestions, and even drawings by the king’s own hand. He sent, for example, lists of species of flowers to the factory, which he wished to see on the porcelain parts. In this way, the porcelains harmonise perfectly with the spaces in which they meant to be used, and hence are testaments to the moods and vogues of Frederick the Great in the transition of his years.
Hofmann, Friedrich H. (ed.), Das Porzellan der Europäischen Manufakturen im 18. Jahrhundert. Berlin, 1932.