Two Meissen figures of gray parrots circa 1731-34
- heights 13 1/4 and 13 1/2 in.
- 33.7 cm and 34.3 cm
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Four examples, including the present two, appear to have survived elsewhere. An example bearing an 'AR' mark in underglaze-blue, with densely painted gray-blue plumage and a colorful base, is in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (formerly in the Dr. Fritz Mannheimer Collection) and is illustrated and discussed by Abraham L. den Blaauwen in Meissen Porcelain in the Rijksmuseum, p. 400. Another, similarly decorated to the present examples, is in the Untermyer Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, (formerly in the Ole Olsen Collection) and is illustrated in Yvonne Hackenbroch, Meissen and Other Continental Porcelain, Faience and Enamel in the Untermyer Collection, pl. 5, fig. 8.
In his note to the Rijksmuseum example, den Blaauwen, op. cit., p. 400, comments that the three Metropolitan Museum examples are "not old". There is no evidence given as to why this might be the case. Whilst the present examples and the Untermyer parrot are differently marked and decorated to the Rijksmuseum bird, their simple yet bold decoration, their paste, the execution of the crossed swords marks and the appearance of their bases are all consistent with other 1730s Meissen bird and animal figures. The decoration around the eyes of all four birds is identical, as are the details of the modelling and the green enameled foliage on the base.
It is possible the simplicity of the decoration on the Metropolitan Museum’s parrots, combined with their bases and marks partially being obscured by later gilt-metal mounts (now removed), led to their being considered later. Indeed Wittwer, op. cit., p. 238, comments on "great differences in the technical and artistic quality of the painting" of the models produced for the Japanese Palace between 1731 and 1736 and also that "the supposition that large animal figures that have strongly contrasting, broadly applied, unnatural colors were painted later and thus could be considered forgeries with respect to their decoration oversees the fact that these figures were decorated at a time when the great technical steps forward were only just being made." The apparent mis-firing of the paste and glaze on one of the present birds, as well as the numerous minor firing tears and fine cracks in the bases, attest to the fact of technical difficulties in the firing of these early models and also support the early 1730s dating.
Sotheby's Scientific Research department used noninvasive XRF for this lot to screen the green enamel for chromium, which was not detected.