Lot 14
  • 14

Two rare Meissen figures of golden orioles circa 1733-40

50,000 - 70,000 USD
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  • porcelain
  • heights 11 3/4 in.
  • 29.8 cm
modelled by Johann Joachim Kändler, perched on high tree stumps, one applied with leafy branches and molded with moss, the birds decorated with bright yellow and black plumage and paler yellow wings, the beaks agape revealing their tongues, crossed swords marks in underglaze-blue to back of bases, black-painted Japanese Palace inventory numbers N=283 / W or n0315 / W.


The Royal Collections of Saxony, Japanese Palace, Dresden
S. Berges, New York, 1942
The Lesley and Emma Sheafer Collection, Bequest of Emma A. Sheafer, 1973


New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion, May 3 - September 4, 2006.


Sotheby's Scientific Research department used noninvasive XRF for this lot to screen the green enamel for chromium, which was not detected. The one with the white base: There is restoration to its beak. There is a 3-inch long stripe that has been retouched with yellow enamel, possibly covering a firing fault. The upper edge of its left, closed wing is restored, possibly covering a break. His right foot has restoration to two talons. There is additionally some flat chips or pinhead chips along the edge of the base, the largest of which measures approximately 1 inches. The other has restoration to its beak, a triangular section on the upper edge of its left wing has been broken and restored back. There is a small slice chip to the underside of its right wing at the lower end. His left foot has restoration to one talon and another broken off and painted to visually conceal the break. There is a haircrack running around the top of the tree stump across the bird's legs that has been restored. It is unlikely that the restoration is covering a break but the exact nature of the damage is difficult to determine. The restoration is very well done. There is a small section of the applied branch lacking on the tree stump; and there are several, occasional small chips or restored chips to the edges of the leaves.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Kändler's work records for July 1733 read 'Specificatio Was in dem Monath July 1733 an Neuen Modellen Inventiert und gefertiget worden... Einen Vogel Von Mittel Mäßiger Größe Eine Bier Eule genannt auf einem Postament sitzend, Kandler, Modellmeister' [Specification of what new models were invented and finished in the month of July 1733... a middle-sized bird called 'Bier-Eule' sitting on a pedestal, Kändler, mastermodeller.] Also in March of 1734 he records 'Im Monath Martio 1734 sind auf hiesiger Kõnigl. Pohl. und Churfürstl. Sächß. Porcellain Fabrique an neuen Modellen gefertiget worden... Einen Vogel von MittelMäßiger Größe gefertiget welcher Eine Bier Eule genannt wird, Johann Joachim Kändler' [In the month of March 1734 at this Porcelain factory of the King in Poland and Elector of Saxony the following new models were finished.. a middle-sized bird known as a 'Bier Eule', Johann Joachim Kändler].

Carl Albiker notes in Die Meissner Porzellantiere (1935 edition), p. 122, models of orioles were also consecutively worked by Johann Gotlieb Ehder in 1740 and Peter Reinicke in 1747, illustrating a pair similar to the present examples, pl. XXIX, no 112. Another similar pair of this model, one of which bears the Japanese Palace inventory number of No. 315, is illustrated in Yvonne Hackenbroch, Meissen and Other Continental Porcelain, Faïence and Enamel in the Irwin Untermyer Collection, color pl. 6, fig. 5, where the author on p. 6 ascribes them to Ehder, circa 1740-41, "after the earlier Kaendler models of March-June 1734." The lack of descriptions in the work records render it impossible to date these golden orioles with certainty; however, the higher stumps are more typical of the earlier models and the present models were more likely made between 1733 and 1740.

Samuel Wittwer mentions in The Gallery of Meissen Animals, Augustus the Strong's Menagerie for the Japanese Palace in Dresden, p. 345, that the inventories of 1770 and 1779 list "six golden orioles with black wings on white pedestals decorated with leaves" with the inventory number N= 283- W; and "ten orioles with black wings, 8 of which are standing on high pedestals decorated with leaves, but 2 of the pedestals are simply ('schlecht') done." 

Three orioles were included in the sale of porcelain from the Royal Saxon Collection, Dresden, held at Rudolph Lepke's, Berlin, October 7 and 8th, 1919, lots 107 and 108 (plain bases) and 109 (base applied with branches). The present examples are likely those sold as lots 107 and 109.

A single example with a white, undecorated base, from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was sold in Sotheby's New York, April 25, 1998, lot 67.

Sotheby's Scientific Research department used noninvasive XRF for this lot to screen the green enamel for chromium, which was not detected.