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Möllendorf service

  • Object:

    Basket

  • Place of origin:

    Meissen (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1761 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Kändler, Johann Joachim, born 1706 - died 1775 (Designer)
    Meissen porcelain factory (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hard-paste porcelain with moulded and applied decoration, painted in enamels and gilt

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with the assistance of the Captain H. B. Murray Bequest

  • Museum number:

    C.248-1921

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 3, case CA6

This lemon basket is from a dinner service made at the Meissen porcelain factory in Saxony, Germany, for Frederick the Great of Prussia around 1761. Frederick the Great had visited Meissen several times, placed orders with the factory, received gifts of Meissen porcelain from Augustus III, the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, and had plans to establish his own rival factory at Berlin before his Prussian forces occupied Saxony for the second time in 1756. Frederick ordered several table services from Meissen during the Prussian occupation of Saxony in the early 1760s. These were intended for his personal use, and he directed and oversaw their design. Artistically this service of 1761, now known as the Möllendorf Service, is the most important.

Many of the tableware shapes and the low relief moulded decoration of the Möllendorf Service were repeated from an earlier service of 1760, which was decorated at Frederick’s order with the same floral cartouches enclosing musical instruments and emblems of war. The handles on the tureen covers of both services were modelled either as Minerva, symbolizing the intelligent conduct of war and wise governance in peacetime, or as nymphs with flowers, fruit, corn or pitchers of wine. This earlier service was in turn inspired by another one, made for Count Bruhl, Prime Minister of Saxony, in 1742. Frederick stipulated in 1761 that his new service should be painted in the combination of the special red enamel and gold reserved at Meissen ‘for the Saxon ruler.’ The design and decoration were therefore in part taken from Saxon court services made for his subdued adversaries, and were politically charged.

The service was begun in 1761, and originally comprised 697 pieces, including 144 dinner plates and 48 soup plates. Dessert plates and possibly also the multi-part plat de ménage (centrepiece with lemon baskets and cruets) were added in 1763. In 1781 Frederick gave the service to General Wichard von Möllendorf, and as a consequence it is now generally known as the Möllendorf Service.

The lemon basket is from the plat de ménage (centrepiece or epergne) of the dinner service, and would have been flanked by sculptural cruets and salts. The two other lower baskets (C.249, C.250-1921) were the central elements of secondary plats de ménage which included other components without figural decoration. These would have been set out symmetrically further along the table to either side of the main plat de ménage. At Meissen, the plat de ménage usually comprised cruets for oil and vinegar, a caster for fine sugar, a mustard pot, a lemon basket, and sometimes salts, all of which were set out on a tray or horizontal structure. Lemons were a status symbol in northern Europe during the eighteenth century, as they were expensive luxuries that had to be imported from countries further south or grown in royal greenhouses, which is why they were given such prominence in these centrepieces. They were used in the preparation and service of fish, meat and salads.

Physical description

Lemon basket from a plat de ménage (centrepiece), part of a dinner service. Oval, with wavy edge; the lower part decorated basket-pattern in open work, the upper part with six panels moulded in low relief with trophies of musical instruments, a torch, a fascis, a globe and a book, and sprays of flowers, enclosed in gilt rococo borders, the interspaces filled with scale-pattern in orange and gold; the inside painted with flowers in deep orange-red and gold; two handles formed of twisted vine-branches with leaf and fruit attachments; supported by a tall fluted column decorated with four goats heads, painted in natural colours, applied between the volutes of the capital; the shaft entwined with a vine-branch, from which hangs a ewer; round the base are three figures, crowned with vine, representing Silenus, partly draped in a purple cloak, holding a goblet of wine, and riding his donkey; a bearded faun, wearing a leopard skin, drinking from a goblet; and a young satyr, holding a small goblet and a wine branch; the whole standing on a rock, shaded with red grey and pale green, and encircled with vine branches and stems of flowers in natural colours.

Place of Origin

Meissen (made)

Date

ca. 1761 (made)

Artist/maker

Kändler, Johann Joachim, born 1706 - died 1775 (Designer)
Meissen porcelain factory (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Hard-paste porcelain with moulded and applied decoration, painted in enamels and gilt

Marks and inscriptions

Crossed swords
Factory mark, in underglaze blue on the base

Dimensions

Height: 56.7 cm

Object history note

Part of a dinner service (Möllendorf service), C.238 to 256-1921.

Historical context note

This lemon basket is from the plat de ménage (centrepiece or epergne) of the Mölledorf service, and would have been flanked by the two other lower baskets (C.249, C.250-1921). At Meissen, the plat de ménage usually comprised cruets for oil and vinegar, a caster for fine sugar, a mustard pot, a lemon basket, and sometimes salts, all of which were set out on a tray or horizontal structure. Lemons were a status symbol in northern Europe during the eighteenth century, as they were expensive luxuries that had to be imported from countries further south or grown in royal greenhouses, which is why they were given such prominence in these centrepieces. They were used in the preparation and service of fish, meat and salads.

Descriptive line

Lemon basket from a plat de ménage (centrepiece), part of a dinner service (Möllendorf service), hard-paste porcelain with moulded and applied decoration, painted in enamels and gilt, made by Meissen porcelain factory, Germany, ca. 1761

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Pietsch, Ulrich and Banz, Claudia (eds). Triumph of the Blue Swords, Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgeoisie 1710-1815, published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name, 2010, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden, pp. 293-294.
See Bonhams, Fine European Ceramics including porcelain from the von Klemperer Collection, London, 8 December 2010, lot 69, for parts of a similar centrepiece with green scale border ordered by Frederick the Great

Labels and date

Meissen Service for Frederick the Great

This dinner service originally comprised over 685 pieces, each with matching decoration as in a modern table service. The set illustrates how dining habits changed in the 18th century. It is made of porcelain, which increasingly replaced silver at grand meals. It features tureens for the new, fashionable soups French chefs had introduced, and grand centrepieces made for condiments. These would have dominated the table.

Part dinner service
Lemon baskets
About 1761–63

Lemons, an expensive luxury in Northern Europe, were used to dress meat, fish and salads. These baskets are from the three centrepieces, which would have dominated a symmetrical arrangement of plates, dishes and tureens.

Germany (Dresden)
Made at the Meissen factory
Made for and under the direction of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, and modelled by Johann Joachim Kändler
Porcelain painted in enamels and gilded
Purchased with funds from the Captain H.B. Murray Bequest
[09/12/2015]

Production Note

.

Materials

Hard paste porcelain

Techniques

Painted; Gilt; Moulded; Applied work

Subjects depicted

Fauns; Flowers; Musical instruments; Donkeys; Satyrs; Scale pattern; Grapes

Categories

Ceramics; Porcelain; Eating; Food vessels & Tableware

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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