A 1730 projected floor plan of the Japanese Palace shows that Meissen seladon-ground porcelains were allocated to the main (upper) floor in a room on the façade facing the city, published in Wittwer, 2006, p. 33, pl. 33. In a contemporary account by Johann Georg Keyssler, of October 23, 1730, he describes the Japanese Palace: 'The rooms of the upper story, which is to be thirty-eight feet high, are to contain nothing other than Meissen porcelain...The second room is to contain many kinds of seladon-coloured porcelain with gilding, and the walls are to be fitted with mirrors and other ornaments.', Wittwer, 2006, pp. 263-64.

Following Augustus the Strong's death, his son and heir, Augustus III, who intended to continue the Japanese Palace project, made a large order for approximately 1,300 pieces of seladon-ground Meissen porcelain on November 26, 1733. The factory managed to deliver this order, of around 600 pieces, to the Japanese Palace between 1734-38, though some porcelains went directly to the Turmzimmer of the Dresden Residence.

The delivery list of December 1737 to the Japanese Palace, published by Boltz, 1996, p.98, includes among the listing of 'green' (seladon) ground wares '5 large bottle vases', as well as 3 medium and 1 small bottle vase, 'Vor Ihro Königl. Majt. und Chur Fürstl. Durchl. zu Sachßen wurde in diesem 1737 Jahr zu Dero Jap" Palais außm Porcelain Wahren Lager geliefert', [In 1737 these items were delivered from the warehouse to the Japanese Palace on behalf of the King.] The present vase is probably one of the five large vases listed.

Caption/Credit: Tower room (Turmzimmer) of the Dresden Rezidenzschloss, Römmler & Jonas, 1896 © Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Repro: SKD
The pendant vase to the present lot, a Meissen seladon-ground bottle vase, ca.1730-35 © Porzellansammlung, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Photo: A. Sauer

By 1769, the Turmzimmer of the Dresden Residence included 680 pieces of Meissen displayed on the walls, of which 186 were seladon-ground, though it seems that porcelain had begun to be moved from the Japanese Palace as early as 1733-36. The movement of porcelain is discussed in detail by Loesch, 2019. The 1769 Turmzimmer inventory lists under no. 358: 'Fünf Stück große Aufsatz Bouteillen, Celadon Couleur, mit weißen Feldern, goldnen Rändgen, worein Vögel, Blumen und Pagoden bemahlt, 15 1/2 Zoll hoch, und 9 Zoll in diam', [Five large bottles, celadon colour, with white fields, golden edges, with painted birds, flowers and pagodas, 15 1/2 inches high, and 9 inches in diam.]

In a remarkable early series of photographs of the Turmzimmer, the 1896 album Das Königliche Residenz-schloß zu Dresden by Dresden firm Römmler & Jonas, two vases, very likely of the five delivered, appear on the high cornice in the corner of the room (plate 20), reproduced in Loesch, 2019, p. 39. A pendant vase with Hausmarschallamt inventory number 'III 254' remains in the Porzellansammlung, Dresden, inv. no. PE 633, illustrated in Loesch, ibid., p. 209, cat. 37-37.1, who illustrates a third vase from this group, which disappeared from the collection during World War II.

Explore the History of the Oppenheimer Vase
  • Japanese Palace, Dresden
  • Tower room (Turmzimmer) of the Residenzschloss, Dresden
  • The collection of Margarethe and Franz Oppenheimer, Berlin & Vienna
  • The collection of Dr. Fritz Mannheimer, Amsterdam & Paris
  • World War II
  • The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
  • Present day
  • Saechsisches Staatsarchiv
    Designation of the rooms in the Japanese Palace with personal entries by Friedrich August I, 1730
    The present lot was likely one of the five large seladon bottle vases recorded on a delivery list to the Japanese Palace in 1737. The room designated for “Seladon Porcell.” is shown in the bottom left corner of the architectural plan, likely where the Oppenheimer vase and similar seladon-ground Meissen wares were intended for display.

    Image courtesy the Saxon State Archives (SächsStA-D, 10006 Oberhofmarschallamt, Cap.02, No.3q; A No. 63)
  • The tower room (Turmzimmer) of the Dresden Residenzschloss, 1896
    The Oppenheimer vase was moved to the tower room of the Residenzschloss by 1769. The pendant vase to the present lot can be identified on the left side of the photograph, top row, with a third large seladon-ground bottle vase, now missing.

    Photo: Tower room (Turmzimmer) of the Dresden Rezidenzschloss, Römmler & Jonas, 1896 © Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Repro: SKD
  • The Oppenheimer collection, 1927
    Acquired by the Oppenheimers sometime between 1924, when it was restituted to the royal family of Saxony (Haus Wettin), and 1927, when it was included in their collection catalogue.

    Photo from Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld’s 1927 catalogue, Sammlung Margarete and Franz Oppenheimer
  • The present lot on display in the collection of Dr. Fritz Mannheimer, 1940
    Acquired by Dr. Mannheimer between 1936 and 1939, the vase was photographed in 1940 in Mannheimer’s Amsterdam residence on the top shelf of a display along with other Meissen vases as seen here.

    Image courtesy the Noord-Hollands Archief (archief Rijksmuseum en rechtsvoorgangers te Amsterdam, toegang 476, inv.nr. 2142)
  • Recovered by the Allied Monuments Officers, between 1945-1949
    The Oppenheimer Collection of Meissen porcelain was among the many artworks acquired for the proposed Führermuseum in Linz and eventually recovered by the “Monuments Men”, a special force of officers devoted to the preservation of art and cultural history. The Monuments Men worked tirelessly in their efforts to find and recover countless treasures, including the present lot, looted by the Nazi’s during World War II.

    This photograph depicts Monuments Men Captain James Rorimer overseeing the evacuation of artwork from Neuschwanstein Castle by American military personnel near Füssen, Germany.

    Photo courtesy the U.S. National Archives
  • Display cabinet at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam in 1962
    Loaned to the Rijksmuseum by the Dutch State and transferred to the museum in 1960, the vase was photographed on exhibition in 1962.

    Photo courtesy the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
  • Sotheby’s New York, 2021
    Lot 35
    A very rare Meissen Augustus Rex large seladon-ground bottle vase, Circa 1735

    Sammlung Oppenheimer | Important Meissen Porcelain

Sotheby's would like to thank Anette Loesch for her kind assistance in the cataloguing of this lot.