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  • Figure
    Kändler, Johann Joachim, born 1706 - died 1775
  • Enlarge image


  • Place of origin:

    Meissen (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1740-1745 (made)
    1733-1734 (modelled)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hard-paste porcelain, painted in enamels

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs O. J. Finney in memory of Oswald James Finney

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 3, case CA15

Life-like figures of birds were a speciality of the Meissen porcelain factory in Saxony. In 1731 the sculptor Johann Joachim Kändler was employed to make models of real animals and birds in the menagerie of the Saxon King, Augustus the Strong, to decorate his pleasure palace, the Japanische Palais (Japanese Palace) in Dresden. The extraordinary large models Kändler and his assistant Kirchner created were the precursors of many smaller animal and bird sculptures modelled a few years later. A wide range of naturalistically modelled birds are known, including doves, magpies, wagtails, kingfishers, bitterns, sparrow hawks, jays and many more.

Kändler's work records for 1733 and 1734 mention models of green woodpeckers. This woodpecker appears to be the 1734 model which was slightly smaller and had the addition of insects and fruits, or as here, fungi on the tree-stump support. Very small porcelain models (mostly under 10cm high) were intended as table decorations at court and are listed in the inventories of the court pantry (Hof-Conditorei). Life-size models such as this woodpecker were another category of courtly production, intended as room decorations which could be grouped on furniture or placed on brackets to create the delightful illusion of a real aviary in a royal residence or pleasure palace.

Physical description

Figure of a woodpecker, of hard-paste porcelain, painted in enamel colours. With black, opened beak, red cap, black and grey painted face and throat, green back and tail with black tips to both. Perched with feet either side of a branched stump on which are a blue caterpillar, a brown beetle and a clump of three mushrooms.

Place of Origin

Meissen (made)


ca. 1740-1745 (made)
1733-1734 (modelled)


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

Materials and Techniques

Hard-paste porcelain, painted in enamels

Marks and inscriptions

Indistinct blue mark on the biscuit



Height: 26.5 cm, Width: 18.5 cm beak to wing tip

Object history note

An essay by Maureen Ann Cassidy-Geiger entitled 'An Jagd-Stücken, unterschiedenen Thieren, Feder Viehe, Hunden und Katzen A Context for the Meissen Porcelain Birds in the Sir Gawaine and Lady Baillie Collection' serves as an introduction to the Sotheby's sale catalogue (see below), pp. 10-15.
'During the reign of Augustus III (1733/4-1763)... thanks to the impetus of Prime Ministers Joseph Alexander Count Sulkowski and Heinrich Count Brühl, porcelain superseded silver table services. Monumental sculpture was also more or less abandoned in favour of smaller models that functioned as table decoration or interior decoration for courtiers and kings. Meissen porcelain was still a royal prerogative and ministerial perk: it was a luxury item that was bestowed, not sold, except by the clever marchands-merciers in Paris or the manufactory itself....The larger birds and songbirds in the Baillie Collection belong to another category of courtly production. Much closer in style and conception to the earlier Japanese Palace models, they were similarly imagined as natural specimens for room decoration or a perpetual aviary in a noble residence or royal pleasure palace....In the 1753 inventory of the Conditorei (pantry) of King Augustus III's porcelain-loving Prime Minister Brühl, 301 animals were listed by type in a chapter titled 'An unterschiedenen Thieren' (of different animals.) Yet 45 dogs and 22 cats warranted their own chapters, 'An Hunden' and 'An Katzen' and the hunting groups were likewise clustered under 'An Jagd-Stücken' (of hunting pieces). There were also 146 birds listed together according to type under the chapter 'An Feder Viehe' (of feathered wildlife.)...
The life-size models of birds in the Baillie Collection are types that have been particularly popular with American collectors yet the history of this production remains obscure. Many are re-workings of the Japanese Palace models and King Augustus III himself gave permission for the manufacture and sale of these later editions. Over fifty birds were inventoried in 1768 in the so-called Porcellain-Cabinet' in the Taschenberg Palace in Dresden, indicating the production was a local and royal taste. There might have been more in Dresden had Frederick the Great not absconded with 230 birds in 1746 following his occupation of Meissen. His booty included 92 parrots in three different sizes that might have been destined for France. And surely he found the Schneeball-vases appealing because they too incorporated songbirds into their viburnum clusters. Clemens August, Prince Bishop of Cologne, had 91 birds in his Indianisches Haus before the sale of his possessions at auction in 1764. How he came to own this impressive aviary, which included a pair of exotic doves as in the Baillie Collection, is unknown.'...

Descriptive line

Figure of a woodpecker, hard-paste porcelain painted in enamels, modelled by J. J. Kändler, 1733-34, made by Meissen porcelain factory, Germany, ca. 1740-45

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

Charleston, R. J., ed. Anthony Blunt "Meissen and other European porcelain" in The James A. De Rothschild Fribourg, Office du Livre; London, National Trust, 1971, No. 53, pp. 154, 156
Property from the Collection of Sir Gawaine & Lady Baillie, sold Sotheby's, London, 1 May 2013, see lot 7 for two green woodpeckers.


Hard paste porcelain



Subjects depicted



Ceramics; Porcelain; Figures & Decorative ceramics


Ceramics Collection

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