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Monkeys were the subject matter of an iconographic genre called Singerie and so were a popular depiction in the 18th century. The genre was based on the art of Jean Berain which was published in 1711. Scenes of dancing, playing and hunting monkeys wearing fashionable clothes decorated the interiors of royal palaces in Marly, Anet or Chantilly. Realistic looking monkeys were often modelled by Kändler.

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The statuette depicts a monkey sitting on a folding stool with an open songbook titled Aria on its lap. It is wearing a Rococo costume – a loose yellow coat, a bodice decorated with ribbons and a wide pink skirt. On its head, the monkey has an embossed bonnet tied under the chin. The monkey is tilting its head backward and has its mouth opened as if it were singing. The monkey figure is placed on a small irregular pedestal covered with a raised flowery decoration and rocaille ornamentation.
During the mid-18th century it was popular to set the table on the occasion of the most important ceremonies with porcelain statuettes forming rich iconographic stories. Along the entire length of the table, next to the silverware and the china, sat an arrangement of many statuettes in the form of garden paths, streets or castle arcades, placed on a mirror sheet or coloured sand. Monkeys were the subject matter of an iconographic genre called Singerie and so were a popular depiction in the 18th century. The genre was based on the art of Jean Berain which was published in 1711. Scenes of dancing, playing and hunting monkeys wearing fashionable clothes decorated the interiors of royal palaces in Marly, Anet or Chantilly. Realistic looking monkeys were often modelled by Kändler. In the Wawel collection, there is a group of seven statuettes entitled The Monkey Orchestra modelled by Kändler and Reinicke, and based on the works of Jean-Baptiste Guélard, dated from around 1753. Originally, the group probably consisted of more than twenty pieces. According to the preserved sources, nineteen statuettes were commissioned in Meissen by Madame de Pompadour.

Elaborated by Dorota Gabryś (Wawel Royal Castle), editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums, © all rights reserved

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“(...) and it was the famous Saxon porcelain from Myszna (Meissen)”

Two curved and crossed cobalt swords are the hallmark of the porcelain factory in Meissen and have marked its products for over three hundred years. The Meissen Royal Factory first started the production of European porcelain. Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus, in collaboration with Johann Friedrich Böttger, discovered the closely guarded secret of its production in 1708. Under Böttger’s supervision, pursuant to the Royal Decree, in 1710, Kursächsische Manufaktur started to function in the castle of Albrechtsburg in Meissen.

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The trademark of Porcelain Manufactory in Meissen,source: Wikipedia, public domain

Two curved and crossed cobalt swords are the hallmark of the porcelain factory in Meissen and have marked its products for over three hundred years. The Meissen Royal Factory first started the production of European porcelain. Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus, in collaboration with Johann Friedrich Böttger, discovered the closely guarded secret of its production in 1708. Under Böttger’s supervision, pursuant to the Royal Decree, in 1710, Kursächsische Manufaktur started to function in the castle of Albrechtsburg in Meissen. The activity of the Meissen factory was divided into several periods, named after the artists employed at the time. Each one of them was a genuine, creative personality, who imparted a unique style to the factory products.
The initial period (1710–1719), under the management of Böttger, was a time of experiments in the field of production. The first European proto-porcelain was the so-called Böttger’s red stoneware, which did not require glazing. Johann Jakob Irminger — a goldsmith — was employed in 1711. He adapted the forms of traditional metal utensils for the new material. Further experiments conducted by Böttger, aimed at obtaining a snow-white shade of porcelain, did not bring satisfactory results, and eventually enabled him to achieve a yellowish colour. Despite various attempts at developing pigments and methods of under- and over-glaze painting, the glaze itself was also imperfect. Böttger’s death, in 1719, put an end to this pioneering phase of the factory’s operation.
The work of the painter, Johann Gregorius Höroldt, started the next stage of technological and artistic development. He turned out to be a brilliant paint specialist or rather the creator of the European onglaze painting decoration on porcelain. Creating motifs for his own products, Höroldt copied the patterns of Chinese and Japanese porcelain. During that period, produced porcelain was extremely exquisitely decorated with chinoiserie, motifs of “Indian blossoms”, various paintings, and landscapes. In the Meissen factory, Höroldt organized a painting workshop, where many prominent painters and technologists worked. That time in the factory’s activity was labelled the pictorial period (1719–1731), because, in the field of decoration, painters gained supremacy over sculptors and modelers who worked in the factory at the time.
This situation reversed, when the next phase — called the sculptural period (1731–1763) — commenced. In that period of time, Joachim Kändler was the master modeler. He was considered to be the father of European porcelain sculpture, because he revolutionized the character of Meissen products by emphasizing their plasticity. After 1736, Kändler — as well as making the previously produced porcelain sculptures — began to create small ceramic figurines inspired by court life. For example, he created a great number of “crinoline” statuettes (from crinolines of female figures), actors of commedia dellarte, and famous figures of Polish men and .[2] His resources expanded in the second half of the 18th century. Further figures were created, including characters from genre art scenes, such as figurines of craftsmen, villagers, and beggars, as well as the famous Monkey Orchestra (Affenkapelle ware).[3] Kändler’s best works include: the tableware set made for Aleksander Józef Sułkowski (1735–1737) — the first such set produced at the factory — and the most magnificent Meissen’s Swan Tableware, created for the then factory’s manager and the later Saxon minister: Heinrich Brühl (1737–1742).
During this period, the paint room, still managed by Höroldt (until 1765), was — in line with the spirit of that era — dominated by the rococo theme of light and delicate court and pastoral scenes in the style of Watteau and Boucher. The previously popular “Indian blossoms” were replaced by the theme of naturalistic representations of plants and insects inspired by botanical patterns, called”.[4] However, since 1739, thanks to the improved technique of cobalt underglaze painting, the production of ceramics, decorated with one of the most famous Meissen decorative motifs — “blue onion” — began.[5]
In the 2nd half of the 18th century, the secrets of porcelain production were no longer a mystery. As a result, Meissen lost the monopoly on its production. At that time, there were already many rival manufacturers in Europe, whose products were maintained at a high artistic level. However, Meissen was still the forerunner in the field of porcelain production technique. During the time when the manager of the Meissen factory was Camill Marcolini (1773–1813), its products imitated French porcelain from Sèvres. Items were glazed in white, which made them look like antique marble. After 1814, in Meissen, imitations of products from the popular Wedgwood factory in England were produced: specifically, ceramics with a white relief on a pastel, matte background. The following periods of the Meissen factory’s work introduced changes in the forms and types of product decoration, according to the current fashion of the prevailing era.
Undoubtedly, the highest artistic level of the workshop in Meissen was reached in the mid-18th century, during the stewardship of Höroldt and Kändler. The patterns of glaze painting developed at that time and the types of porcelain sculptures established a characteristic repertoire, according to which traditional Meissen porcelain has been manufactured to this day.

Elaborated by Paulina Kluz (Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

Bibliography:
Ludwig Danckwert, Leksykon porcelany europejskiej, tłum. Agata Bobkiewicz, Barbara Bukowska, Roman Warszewski, Gdańsk 2008;
Jan Diviš, Porcelana europejska, Warszawa 1984;
Zygmunt Gloger, Encyklopedia staropolska ilustrowana, t. 4, Warszawa 1903;
Ingelore Menzhausen, Stara porcelana miśnieńska w Dreźnie, tłum. Andrzej Dulewicz, Warszawa 1990;
Maria Piątkiewicz-Dereniowa, Porcelana miśnieńska w zbiorach wawelskich. Katalog zbiorów, t. 1–2, Kraków 1983;
Słownik terminologiczny sztuk pięknych, red. Krystyna Kubalska-Sulkiewicz, Warszawa 1996.


[1] “Indian flowers” is a decorative motif taken from the decoration of Chinese porcelain, formed out of lush bushes, flowering chrysanthemums and peonies, maintained in red and purple colours.
[2] Polish figurines belonged to the category of “costume” art. Sarmatian culture with its eastern costumes was oriental for a Saxon court dominated by French fashion.
[3] Porcelain figurines were usually selected from several thematic groups and composed into scenes which, depending on the configuration of the characters, expressed various contents. Placed in such positions on a mirror pane in the middle of the table, they served as its decoration during the meal, called surtout de table.
[4] The term Deutsche Blumen refers to several types of floral decorations, namely “graphic” and “shaded” flowers, modelled on printmaking, very drawing-like (1735-1745); “naturalistic” flowers, painted on the basis of botanical compendia (1745-1765); and “mannerist” flowers which are compositions of bizarre bouquets (after 1765).
[5] Zwiebelmuster is a decoration of an oriental type. Its pattern is created from a bamboo shoot (schakiako) entwined with a branch (clematis), and from a branch of chrysanthemum and a Japanese flower (ominashi), which are framed with pomegranate and peach fruits, which makes it looks like the titular onion.

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“White gold” – concerning the beginnings of European porcelain

Chinese and Japanese porcelain was once an extremely valuable and desirable product in Europe, which was already being imported in the Middle Ages. It was called “white gold”, because it commanded value comparable to this precious metal and was often used as its substitute (e.g. as a gift). At that time, porcelain was viewed as a synonym of luxury and its possession testified to the splendour of the house; only the wealthiest people — mainly royalty — could afford it. In the modern era — in connection with the fashion for Orientalism — porcelain gained such great popularity, that a great effort was made to discover how it was manufactured: one of the most guarded secrets of the East.

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Chinese and Japanese porcelain was once an extremely valuable and desirable product in Europe, which was already being imported in the Middle Ages. It was called “white gold”, because it commanded value comparable to this precious metal and was often used as its substitute (e.g. as a gift). At that time, porcelain was viewed as a synonym of luxury and its possession testified to the splendour of the house; only the wealthiest people — mainly royalty — could afford it.
Porcelain is the finest type of ceramics. The formula of its manufacture was developed in China as early as the 7th century. In the modern era — in connection with the fashion for Orientalism — porcelain gained such great popularity, that a great effort was made to discover how it was manufactured: one of the most guarded secrets of the East. Initially, half-measures were used to obtain faience: a type of ceramics differing from the mineral composition of porcelain clay, but bearing the closest resemblance to it after firing. Through the use of a similar form, and characteristic cobalt under-glaze decorations on a white background, producers attempted to give it the appearance of original Chinese porcelain. The 2nd half of the 17th and the 1st half of the 18th centuries was the period in which the greatest number of porcelain imitations were manufactured in Europe. 
The first product of this kind was the so-called Medici porcelain, which was made in Florence in the 16th century. However, these vessels had an original form and resembled Chinese porcelain only in its colour scheme. Around 1600, in the French city of Nevers, the production of faience in the Italian tradition began, which — due to the then contemporary fashion trends — adopted the Chinese cobalt-white colour palette and stylistics in the middle of the 17th century. The history of the famous Delft faience — also produced since the beginning of the 17th century — was similar. At the beginning of the factory’s operation, a characteristic collection of decorative motifs was developed, depicting landscapes or genre scenes, most often cobalt patterns on a white background (patterns of Dutch ceramics recognizable to the present day). In line with the increasing fashion for Chinese products in the 2nd half of the century, Delft faience stared to resemble such products through the shape of its vessels and decorations, modelled on those from the Far East, although still retaining local features. In the following decades, the trend for this type of product resulted in the establishment of other production facilities of porcelain imitations, which vied with one another in the field of ideas for production techniques and designs of crockery.
The real breakthrough was the invention of a technique for making European porcelain by Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus in 1708. Von Tschirnhaus’s research was continued by his collaborator, Johann Friedrich Böttger (an alchemist who, before embarking on the research into the production of the “white gold”, had conducted experiments on transmutating other metals into gold). In 1710, under Böttger’s supervision, porcelain production commenced in the first European factory founded by Augustus II the Strong — Kursächsische Manufaktur — at the Albrechtsburg castle in Meissen. Saxon (or Meissen) porcelain was met with great appreciation from the very beginning and has been since produced almost continuously to the present day.

See also:
Chinese porcelain salt shaker
“Hydria” apothecary vase
Teapot with lid
Porcelain vase with a wooden base

Elaborated by Paulina Kluz (Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

Bibliography:
Ludwig Danckwert, Leksykon porcelany europejskiej, tłum. Agata Bobkiewicz, Barbara Bukowska, Roman Warszewski, Gdańsk 2008;
Słownik terminologiczny sztuk pięknych, red. Krystyna Kubalska-Sulkiewicz, Warszawa 1996.

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Ars Simia naturae - art is the ape of nature

Among the realistic images of animals contained in the Book of Plants and Animals, we can see the representation of a monkey-painter with a brush and a palette. This involves a modern understanding of the purpose of art as the imitation of nature. Imitation, in other words, aping. The verb “to ape” is a calque from Latin. The Latin simulo, simulare [imitate, to imitate] comes from the noun simia: i.e. “ape”. The Latin verb meaning imitation has been transferred to many European languages: to all Romance languages, English, Swedish and Polish as “simulate” (mainly in the sense of pretending illness).

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Among the realistic images of animals contained in the Album of Plants and Animals, we can see the representation of a monkey-painter with a brush and a palette. This involves a modern understanding of the purpose of art as the imitation of nature. Imitation, in other words, aping. The verb “to ape” is a calque from Latin. The Latin simulosimulare [imitate, to imitate] comes from the noun simia: i.e. “ape”. The Latin verb meaning imitation has been transferred to many European languages: to all Romance languages, English, Swedish and Polish as “simulate” (mainly in the sense of pretending illness).

The association of apes with imitation has an ancient genesis. The Greeks and Romans were convinced that primates mimic human behaviour. The Greek geographer and historian Strabon, who lived in the first century BC, mentioned that the hunters use this property of monkeys when hunting for them: they show the animals how they wash their eyes with water and then hand them a bowl with birdlime (glue made from mistletoe); the unfortunate monkeys glue their eyes shut and cannot escape; similarly, the hunters show them how to wear shoes, and then give them heavy, lead ones. Pliny the Elder (23–79) alluded to these rather peculiar accounts of Strabon in his Natural history [Naturalis historia]: “[...] imitating hunters, they rub themselves down with birdlime and put their feet into traps“ (Plinius, Naturalis historia, Vol. 3, book 8, Ch. 80). In addition, Pliny mentioned the account of Mucianus (1st century AD) in relation to monkeys playing checkers.
As a consequence of the authority of ancient writers, the belief in the imitative tendencies of apes has become a topos of medieval literature. In the modern period, especially in the 18th century, performances of monkeys engaged in various, typically human activities were popular. Among them, there were depictions of monkeys using painting accessories. It was not only a reference to the mimetic nature of painting skills. Monkeys, by imitating people, ridiculed their stupidity and vanity. Perhaps, the image from The Book of plants and animals of a monkey holding a pearl shown next to the monkey-painter is also a reference to human vanity. Whoever the author of the collection was, he had – it seems – a healthy perspective of humanity and his own profession.

Elaborated by Adam Spodaryk (Editorial team of Małopolskas Virtual Museums ),
Licencja Creative Commons

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

See also:

Over Door Tapestry with the Arms of Lithuania on landscape background with Animals ‒ a Spotted Hyena and a Monkey

Under Window Tapestry with Monkeys

Statuette of a Singing Monkey of the “Monkey Orchestra” series

Statuette of a Monkey Playing the Horn of the “Monkey Orchestra” series

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Statuette of a Singing Monkey of the “Monkey Orchestra” series

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