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Allegory of Africa

  • Object:

    Figure group

  • Place of origin:

    Ludwigsburg (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1760 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Götz, Johann Wilhelm (modeller)
    Ludwigsburg porcelain factory (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hard-paste porcelain, painted in enamels and gilded

  • Credit Line:

    Alfred Williams Hearn Bequest

  • Museum number:

    C.93-1931

  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 139, The Curtain Foundation Gallery, case Q, shelf 1

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, a cornucopia in her left and with ‘a fierce Lion by her’. Here, Africa is depicted as a family group but with many of the ‘typical’ attributes still visible: the palm tree behind, the figures’ partial nudity, the elephant’s tusk and seated lion.

Physical description

Figure group of hard-paste porcelain of a seated black family - the father and mother, the latter supports a baby on her left knee. They are naked except for strings of pearls and head cloth worn by the female figure and drapery across the laps of both adults. Base of rococo scrollwork. African symbols include elephant's tusk, palm tree, and lion.

Place of Origin

Ludwigsburg (made)

Date

ca. 1760 (made)

Artist/maker

Götz, Johann Wilhelm (modeller)
Ludwigsburg porcelain factory (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Hard-paste porcelain, painted in enamels and gilded

Marks and inscriptions

'C's' surmounted by a crown
In underglaze blue

Dimensions

Height: 36.2 cm

Descriptive line

Figure group of an African family in hard-paste porcelain painted in enamels and gilded, modelled by J.W. Götz, Ludwigsburg porcelain factory, Ludwigsburg, ca. 1760.

Materials

Hard paste porcelain

Techniques

Painted; Gilded

Subjects depicted

Allegory; Trees; Baby; Man; Lion; Woman; Scrollwork

Categories

Black History; Ceramics; Figures & Decorative ceramics; Porcelain

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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