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Figure - Africa
  • Africa
    Eberlein, Johann Friedrich, born 1696 - died 1749
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  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Meissen (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1745-1750 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Eberlein, Johann Friedrich, born 1696 - died 1749 (modeller)
    Meissen porcelain factory (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hard-paste porcelain, painted in enamels and gilt

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Miss Florence Augusta Beare in memory of Arthur Doveton Clarke

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 139, The Curtain Foundation Gallery, case 23, shelf 5

The earliest porcelain figures were made for the dessert course of grand dinners and replaced the sugar paste and wax figures made since medieval times for royal feasts. Originally intended as expressions of dynastic power and to celebrate political allegiances, allegorical themes had been introduced into these table settings by the 16th century . By the 18th century many were entirely decorative. Meissen in Germany was the first factory to make porcelain figures for the dessert. It set the sculptural conventions followed by porcelain factories elsewhere.

The convention for depicting the Four Continents as female figures was used as early as the Counter-Reformation to symbolise the worldwide spread of Catholic Christendom. The figures were given wider appeal through their inclusion in the Iconologia of Cesare Ripa, an illustrated book of emblems widely used by artists from the early 17th century. ‘Africa’ was conventionally depicted as a black woman ‘almost naked’ wearing a necklace of coral, carrying a scorpion in her right hand and a cornucopia in her left. A lion often accompanied her.

Physical description

Porcelain figure of a standing black female figure naked but for a headdress and sash of feathers. She has a gold bangle on her right arm and holds a necklace of white beads in her right hand. In her left she holds a piece of coral. She stands on a white base supported by an elephant's tusk behind her.

Place of Origin

Meissen (made)


ca. 1745-1750 (made)


Eberlein, Johann Friedrich, born 1696 - died 1749 (modeller)
Meissen porcelain factory (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Hard-paste porcelain, painted in enamels and gilt


Height: 15.3 cm

Descriptive line

Figure of black woman representing 'Africa', hard-paste porcelain painted in enamels and gilt, probably modelled by J. F. Eberlein, made by Meissen porcelain factory, Germany, ca. 1745-1750


Hard paste porcelain


Painted; Gilt

Subjects depicted



Black History; Ceramics; Figures & Decorative ceramics; Porcelain


Ceramics Collection

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