Winifred Baer and Ilse Baer "Allerhöchsten Befehl. Königsgeschenke aus der Königlichen Porzellan-Manufaktur Berlin - KPM", 1983, pp. 60-61, cat. no. 63, illustrating two very similar Munich Vases, given by King Friedrich Wilhelm IV to Friedrich Karl Ferdinand Freiherr von Müffling, 1842, now in the Schloss Charlottenburg.
A very important and rare Classical gilt bronze mounted and gilt and polychrome painted porcelain Munich Vase Sorte No 4, made by the Royal Berlin Porcelain Manufactory and marked with the initials E.F. No. 6 on the inside of the lower rim of the removable upper part and decorated overall with designs after Hermann Looschen, Karl Friedrich August von Kloeber and Carl Gottlieb Wilhelm Boetticher. The vase in three parts, the top and body divided by a chased gilt bronze band, likewise the body and foot by fluted gilt bronze banding, the rim and elongated spreading neck painted with stiff leaf motifs and panels decorated with passionflowers above arabesques and floral sprays, the body with two gilt bronze scrolled handles decorated overall with palm fronds, passionflowers and other flora and berries above an acanthus band and centred on either side by floating female muses, one wearing a long flowing blue dress and gold and ochre billowing cloak holding a kythera, the other in a green dress and red cloak playing a mandolin, the foot decorated with foliate filled panels above anthemion motifs and a foliate band, on a square gilt bronze base
Berlin, date circa 1840
Height 110 cm.
This is the largest of the so named Munich Vases to have been made by the Königlichen Porzellan-Manufaktur, (known as K.P.M.). Between 1829 up until 1850 this renowned Berlin factory produced vases of this characteristic form in four different sizes. They were all made to order for the Prussian king and were specifically reserved by the royal court to be given as gifts to other notable figures or to immediate family members as well as German royal 'cousins'. As such the factory had to produce works of the very highest standard, where no expense was spared when it came to their design and decoration. For this reason K.P.M. commissioned works from the leading Berlin architects and designers who, as we will see, played an important role in the vase's creation.
The factory archives note that the prototype for this model was first made by the Nymphenburger Porzellanmanufaktur in Munich but interestingly the original source for its overall design was derived from the ancient Attic hydria vases and particularly those made in Southern Italy painted in black during the fourth century B.C. They, like the Munich Vases had an everted rim above an elongated neck, an ovoid body, scrolled handles and a circular spreading foot.
As a group the Munich Vases were decorated with a variety of pictorial ornaments ranging from portraits, topographical views as well as mythological scenes. To date only five vases of this size with the same or similar floating figures have been identified. Two of these were commissioned by King Friedrich Wilhelm III (1797-1840). According to the K.P.M. archives the first was given on 2nd July 1836 to His Majesty the King of the Netherlands. This was Willem I von Nassau (1772-1843), who in 1791 married Friedrich Wilhelm III's sister Frederike Luise Wilhelmine (1774-1837) and in 1815 was crowned King of the Netherlands. The vase itself cost 923 Taler, 15 Groschen while the bronze mounts amounted to 75 Taler and 15 Groschen. According to the K.P.M. ledgers on 28th June 1837 Friedrich Wilhelm III gave a second vase to Princess Friedrich (Luise) of the Netherlands; this was undoubtedly his sister Frederike Luise Wilhelmine, who in 1815 became Queen of the Netherlands. Her vase cost a total of 1000 Taler.
A pair of vases with very similar decoration are also now in the Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin, home to one of the country's finest porcelain collections and especially pieces by K.P.M. These were a given to Friedrich Karl Ferdinand Freiherr von Müffling, (1775-1851) by Friedrich Wilhelm III's son and successor Friedrich Wilhelm IV (1795-1861), on 15th November 1842. Müffling, who entered the Prussian army in 1790 and rose to the position as General Field Marshall was appointed governor of Berlin in 1837 and President of the Privy Council, 1841. One of Müffling's vases had the same motifs as here, with figures and leaf work between but had different ornaments on the neck and foot, the second vase however differed even more since instead of Kloeber's figures the vase featured Bertel Thorvaldsen's famous figures Night and Day. Each of Müffling's vases cost 1000 Taler.
The present work, with its distinctive ornamental decoration on the foot and neck was traced through the K.P.M. archives as being dated to 1840 and noted as being from a design by the artist Hermann Looschen d.Ä. (1807-73). His name appears in the artists' entry book from 19th July 1839 up until April 1840. Unfortunately although the work can be dated to 1840, neither the commissioner's name nor that of the recipient is recorded. However based on its superior quality and close similarity with others of the same design it can be safely assumed that it would have been commissioned by either the then reigning Prussian King, Wilhelm III, (who died in June 1840) or by his son and successor Friedrich Wilhelm IV and that like the other examples was intended to be given as a royal gift.
The design for the floating music-playing female muses or genies are earlier than 1840, dating to 1833 and were the work of a leading member of the Berlin Akademie, Karl Friedrich August von Kloeber (1793-1864). The designs for the floral decorations with their distinctive palm fronds and passionflower motifs also date to 1833 and were the work of the newly enrolled teacher of painting at K.P.M. Carl Gottlieb Wilhelm Boetticher (1806-99). Finally the intricate ornamentation on the neck and foot was designed by Hermann Looschen (1807-73), who worked for many years at K.P.M. Each of the three artists Looschen, Kloeber and Boetticher, whose designs feature on this wonderful piece, will be discussed in turn.
Looschen's designs for the foot and upper part of the vase decoration are known through detailed watercolours (illustrated respectively in Winifred Baer and Ilse Baer, op. cit, p. 58, cat no. 35 and p. 59, cat no. 36). The former is signed 'Looschen Januar 1840' and numbered 7 while the latter is inscribed 'Looschen 1840' and numbered 8. Both designs are perfectly transcribed in every detail onto the present vase. Hermann Looschen was born on 3rd September 1807 at Aurich, East Friesland and died on 23rd October 1873 in Berlin where he established great repute as a porcelain painter and designer at KPM. His career began there in 1832; three years later he became the superior decorative painter at K.P.M and then in 1848 succeeded G.W. Völkers as director of decoration and continued in this capacity until his death.
Looschen's specialities were birds and floral branches and sprays, while still-lifes of flowers and fruit formed the main subject of his exhibited works at the Berlin Akademie, 1839-50. He also tested new technological and decorative possibilities including a new lithographic technique for decorating blue and white tableware. His eldest son Hermann Looschen Jnr (1838-91) was also a porcelain painter, who having studied at the Berlin Akademie, worked in Paris and at Sèvres before taking over his father's studio on the latter's death.
Centred on either side of the body of the vase are two female floating figures. These muses or musical genies were both designed by Karl Friedrich August von Kloeber. The original oil on board studies for these figures, both signed and dated 'AvKloeber inv 1833' are preserved in the K.P.M. archives, as are the squared-up cartoons (illustrated ibid. p. 62, cat nos. 37-40). Perfectly sized squared-up copies of the original designs were necessary in order to transfer the precise images onto porcelain. Kloeber was first and foremost a painter, who was well known for his numerous idyllic and classically inspired paintings in churches, theatres, castles and museums.
He was born on 21st August 1793 in Breslau; after attending the Berlin Kadettenhaus 1805-6 and the Bauschule at Breslau, 1808, he enrolled as a painter at the Berlin Akademie, 1810. In 1829 he was received as a member of the Akademie, then from 1834 he took up a post as a professor of painting and from 1854 acted as director of the composition classes. After serving in the army during the War of Liberation against the Napoleonic army, 1813-14 he continued his studies in Paris and then at the Vienna Akademie. Whilst there he was introduced to Beethoven at Mödling (by way of a letter from J.V. Dont, a violinist and member of Beethoven's circle of friends). After receiving permission to draw the great composer, Kloeber sketched him on a number of occasions. According to the artist when Beethoven saw his picture he remarked that the treatment of the hair pleased him very much and that hitherto other painters had always made him look so well groomed. In addition to Beethoven, Kloeber also painted a portrait of the Austrian playwright Franz Grillparzer (1791-1872).
Whilst in Vienna he also received a commission for a series of decorative works for the city's theatre. After Vienna he worked in Breslau but then returned to Berlin, 1818 and through the leading Prussian architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841) was invited to decorate some of Berlin playhouses including the Neuen Schauspielhaus, circa 1820 with mythological and allegorical scenes and later the Royal Lodge of the Opera House, 1844 and the Viktoriatheater with groups of children. He was also heavily patronised by Friedrich Wilhelm IV in the decoration of his palaces, for instance Schlosskapelle, 1851 and the Weisser Sall, 1854, while he received other decorative commissions for the Villa General-Konsol Odilon de Kraecker, 1861 and Villa Donner, 1863.
From 1821-28 Kloeber worked in Italy but soon after his return home began to provide compositions to K.P.M, each with the same gracious and elegant lines as evident here. In the same year in which he made the designs for the two floating muses, he also painted 'Pausias with the Flower Girl', a subject also portrayed by Rubens, whose work was a great inspiration to Kloeber's own art. As here, the subject of his oils revolved around the classical and mythological world, such as 'Jubal Inventing the Flute' of 1839, 'Amor and Psyche', 1854 and 'The Education of Bacchus', all in the Nationalgalerie, Berlin.
Kloeber's figures are perfectly offset against the subtle background of ferns and passionflowers above an acanthus border. These were designed by Carl Gottlieb Wilhelm Boetticher, who excelled in the finest ornamental decorations. Among Boetticher's numerous designs preserved in the K.P.M archives is a detailed watercolour, signed and dated 'CBoetticher. Aug 33/ Nro 2', showing the exact layout for the flora and foliage adorning the body of the present vase (illustrated ibid. p. 52, cat. no. 29). Boetticher was an interesting figure and multi-talented artist who worked in many facets of the art world, as an architect, designer, lithographer, art historian, archaeologist and museum curator. Born in Nordhausen on 29th May 1806, he was the oldest child of August Boetticher, a baker and restaurateur. His mother died while he was still young and though his father remarried twice, the young Boetticher found solace in art and music. Through the intervention of his director at his High School, he began studying architecture and then spent a year in 1826 studying mathematics at Erfurt before pursuing architecture at the Berlin Bauakademie in 1827. His love for the Gothic brought him in contact with Karl Friedrich Schinkel. He was also strongly influenced by the ornamental designer and lithographer Christian Beuth (1781-1853), and with him provided lithographs for a pattern book of models for manufacturers and craftsmen. This was followed by many other ornamental design and textbooks, illustrated purely with his own lithographs.
In 1833, the same year in which he designed the flora and foliage featured on this vase, Boetticher began teaching at the painting school at the royal Porzellanmanufaktur. 1833 not only brought success but also contentment for in the same year he married his first wife Emilie Stier. During the following year he began teaching at the Gewerbeinstitut, which was followed in 1838 with a teaching post at the Prussian Kunstakademie and another in 1839 at the Bauakademie. In 1837 Boetticher travelled to northern Germany to gain material for ecclesiastical pattern models. Then from 1845 he taught linear and architectural drawing and became a member of the Architect's Association 1833-59. 1844 saw him gaining a PhD in architecture, which was followed by him tutoring at the university up until 1862 in which year he made archaeological excavations at the Acropolis.
Having served as assistant director of the Berlin museum sculpture collection, in 1868 he was made head of the sculpture department of the royal museums. However his controversial programme of rearranging works provoked much criticism and thus in 1876 he eventually resigned from the museum world. The following year he remarried for the third time (his first marriage ending in divorce while his second wife died) and soon after embarked on a trip to Italy and Greece. He died in Berlin on 19th June 1889 after a short illness.
The history of the Royal Berlin Porcelain factory dates back to 1752 when Wilhelm Kaspar Wegely, a merchant founded the first Berlin porcelain factory and was given a monopoly by Frederick the Great. Wegely produced good slightly opaque hard paste porcelain table decorations, impressive vases and statuettes. However after five years the first factory was forced to close. Subsequently a financier named Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky founded a second in 1761 but soon it ran into financial trouble so in 1763 it was acquired by Frederick the Great and thus the enterprise became a royal factory. It remained so up until 1918 when it became state property and still continues today as a flourishing concern.
During the eighteenth century the factory produced some outstanding pieces of a creamy tone, modelled and painted with great delicacy in a restrained Rococo manner. The adoption of a different type of kaolin soon after 1770 led to a much whiter coloured porcelain, which also coincided with a more severe but simplified style of modelling in the Neo-classical fashion. The classicising influenced became increasing evident under the patronage of Friedrich Wilhelm II and continued to do during the early years of the nineteenth century when his son Friedrich Wilhelm III was on the throne. The continuation of the Classical influence was perfectly expressed by K.P.M.'s modellmeister (master modeller) Johann Karl Friedrich Riese, who became a sculptor at the factory in 1779 and followed Friedrich Elias Meyer and Johann Georg Müller as K.P.M.'s third modellmeister 1789-1835. During the early nineteenth century the main influence was the Classical Empire style as developed at Sèvres, especially so in the decoration of table-wares which were heavily gilded and had bands of solid colour.. The factory also produced a number of statuettes and busts made in biscuit porcelain sometimes after the marbles by J. G. Schadow.
However K.P.M.'s most notable pieces at this time were its decorative vases, cups and saucers as well as complete dinner services, made as gifts for European rulers, relatives or associates of the royal family. The tradition of porcelain gifts was neither new to the Berlin factory nor an innovation since its tradition dated back to the Renaissance and beyond. However such diplomatic exchanges reached an apogee from about 1815-20, as a direct result of the political situation in Europe, specifically the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo and the attendant military celebrations and diplomatic meetings. The hero of that era was the Duke of Wellington who was given numerous porcelain gifts by a number of nations and in particular received a spectacular Berlin dinner service, large enough for more than one hundred guests.
Like the other four of gilt bronze mounted Munich Vases Sorte 4, each with very similar ornamentation, the present vase would undoubtedly have been made to royal order to be given as a gift. To this effect the beautiful decoration not only features designs by three great Berlin artists, but the vase itself is the largest and most expensive of its type. As such the finely painted white porcelain body is further enhanced by the fire gilt bronze mounted bands, handles and an individual mounted base. Rarely does one have the opportunity to acquire a work of such calibre and especially one so rare.