Winfried Baer, "Der Einfluss der Antike auf das Erscheinungsbild der Berliner Porzellanmanufakturen", in W. Arenhövel (ed.) "Berlin und die Antike", exhibition catalogue, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut and Staatliche Museum Preussischer Kulterbesitz, Berlin, Schloss Charlottenburg, Gosse Orangerie, 22nd April - 22nd July 1979, illustrating and describing an identically styled Berlin Medici Krater vase featuring a panorama of Berlin, housed at Schloss Glücksburg. Brigitte Klesse, "Berliner Veduten-Porzellane in Köln", in "Keramos", no. 150, 1995, pp. 53-85, illustrating and describing a slightly later but identically styled Berlin Medici Krater vase housed in the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Cologne.
A superb and rare Classical gilt bronze mounted gilt and polychrome painted porcelain Medici vase made by the Royal Berlin Porcelain Manufactory signed on the base with the initials K.P.M. below a crown, with gilded rim and gilt biscuit acanthus leaf border above an extremely fine panoramic view of Potsdam attributed to Eduard Wilhelm Forst within a painted rosette border, with scrolled stiff leaf gilt bronze handles, the gilt painted lower body painted en grisaille with classical grotesque decoration depicting at centre a flower-filled head of a maiden amid further flowers and foliage, on a red and green striped foot bordered above and below by stiff leaf gilded bands on a square gilt base with polychrome scale pattern border
Berlin, date circa 1838
Height 76 cm, width 65 cm.
The form of this vase is one of the rarest made by the Royal Berlin Porcelain Manufactory or Konigliche-Porzellan-Manufaktur (K.P.M). It was known as a Riesen'sche Sorte, so named after Johann Karl Friedrich Riese who worked as the modellmeister at K.P.M. from1789 to 1835. Not only is its form almost unique but it was also one of the Berlin factory's largest Medici Krater vases. Only six others are known, namely one featuring a panorama of Berlin in the Schloss Glücksburg (residence of the Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein), noted above; a pair in the Kunstsammlungen zu Weimar, one with a panorama of Berlin the other with a slightly different panoramic view of Potsdam.
The latter comparing with a fourth featuring a panorama of Potsdam by Eduard Wilhelm Forst (sold at Sotheby's New York, 11th November 2000, lot 59). The latter, of 1836 was one of a group of three that were given by Friedrich Wilhelm III to the Duc d'Orleans. Like the example at Schloss Glücksburg it has a similar border and grisaille decoration but interestingly has gilt biscuit rather than gilt bronze handles. The fifth vase does not have the lower grisaille decoration but shows a Panorama von Sans-Souci bei Potsdam. King Friedrich Wilhelm IV gave it in December 1840 to Wilhelm, Duke of Brunswick and Lüneburg in Wolfenbüttel; during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it was at Schloss Blankenburg and more recently sold from Schloss Marienberg (Royal House of Hanover sale, 11th October 2005, lot 2755). The last comparable vase is of a slightly later date, 1845 and has framed rather than panoramic views and is now housed in the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Cologne (as illustrated and described by Brigitte Klesse, ibid.).
This and three of the other six vases were made during the later part of the reign of Friedrich Wilhelm III (1797-1840), whilst the examples from the Hanover Collection and the one in the Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Cologne were made during the reign of the latter's son Friedrich Wilhelm IV (1840-1861). During the post-Napoleonic era a large amount of civic and private building took place in both Potsdam and Berlin, much of which was designed by the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841). Largely in recognition of this the Berlin factory depicted many of the great palaces and other great city landmarks on its ware (e.g. an amphora shaped vase with view of the Berlin Palace now in the Residenz Museum Munich).
The view of Potsdam on the front of the vase appears to be taken from the northwest of the city, showing on the far right the imposing Alexander Neweski-Chapel (built 1826-29), set on the Kapellenberg Hill to the north above the Russian Alexandrowka colony below. The log cabin Alexandrowka colony was created 1826-27 upon the request of Friedrich Wilhelm III in memory of his deceased friend Tsar Alexander I, who was not only a relation but had allied with the Prussians during the Napoleonic Wars, not least by giving refuge to members of its royal family during the 1806-7 French occupation of Berlin. On the reverse side of the vase one can see the historic windmill in close proximity to Sanssouci Palace. Frederick the Great built the latter though the building and parkland was extensively renovated during the 1840's under the direction of Friedrich Wilhelm IV. The panorama also includes one of the city's gate houses, beyond which is almost certainly Pfaueninsel or Peacock Island, where Friedrich Wilhelm II built a romantic palace and where later his son and successor Friedrich Wilhelm III transformed the island's wilderness into an English park and had the new Kavalierhaus built in the Neo-Gothic style.
Like other important works made at the Konigliche-Porzellan-Manufaktur, all six vases would have been intended to be given by the Prussian king as royal gifts, many of which were decorated with images or scenes appropriate to their recipient. Thus given the positioning of the Alexander Neweski-Chapel in the foreground and Alexandrowka colony below it is probable that this specific vase was given to a member of the Russian Imperial family. Brigitte Klesse (in Keramos) goes further to suggest that Friedrich Wilhelm III gave vases of this specific type to the Russian Tsar as well as to the King and Queen of England and the duc d'Orléans. In contrast we know that the later example, now housed at Cologne painted with fine garden views was given by the Grand-Duc Friedrich Franz II von Mecklenburg-Schwerin to Peter Joseph Lenée (1789-1866) in recognition of his fine work as Director of the Royal Prussian Gardens.
Whilst the Berlin factory never enjoyed the same level of financial support offered by successive French governments to the Sèvres factory, nevertheless a main aspect of their production consisted of luxury items, ranging from vases, cups and saucers and Easter eggs to complete dinner services, which were bestowed upon European rulers, relatives or associates of the royal family. The giving of porcelain gifts was neither new to the Berlin factory nor an innovation, its tradition dating 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.
Since porcelain gifts were common to all European kingdoms, the individual factories tended to compete in their quest for new designs, colours and techniques. KPM excelled at portraying topographical views, based on numerous prints or original studies. Carl Daniel Freydanck (1811-87) was one of the finest painters whose work was reproduced by the Berlin factory. His topographical oils included numerous scenes of Potsdam including an elongated "Panoramic View of Potsdam as seen from the terrace at Sanssouci" (K.P.M. archive, Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin, illustrated in "Along the Royal Road: Berlin and Potsdam in K.P.M. Porcelain and Painting", ed. by Derek E. Ostergard, circa 1993, pp. 196-7). Given the quality of its detail and design, it is very possible that Freydanck executed the original panorama featured on the present vase, which in turn would have been carefully copied onto the vase by one of the skilled K.P.M. painters. Since we know that the 1836 vase was painted by Eduard Wilhelm Forst and shows a similarly intricate view of Potsdam, it is very probable that he also executed the decoration on the present vase. Forst is recorded as a member of the landscape painting corps at K.P.M. from 1823.
The first Berlin Porcelain factory, founded by Wilhelm Kaspar Wegely in 1752, produced good slightly opaque hard paste porcelain table decorations, impressive vases and statuettes. However after five years it was forced to close. Subsequently a financier named Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky founded a second in 1761 but soon ran into financial trouble so in 1763 the factory was acquired by Frederick the Great (1712-86) Thus the enterprise became a royal factory and 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 then followed Friedrich Elias Meyer and J. G. Müller as K.P.M.'s third modellmeister 1789-1835. Riese, who was responsible for designing the present vase, adhered to a strict Neo-classical formality. Among his other great contributions to the factory's output were two acclaimed services, namely the 'Service mit den Antiken Kanthen' (known today as the Kurland) and the 'Konisch Glatt'. Apart from services, Riese also created numerous figurines, centrepieces and vases, sometimes working in collaboration with Johann Gottfried Schadow and Hans Christian Genelli, as well as on his own account as demonstrated here when he modelled the present Riesen'sche Sorte which stands as testament to one of the factory's most elegant pieces.