Möllendorf service thumbnail 1
Möllendorf service thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Europe 1600-1815, Room 3

Möllendorf service

Basket
ca. 1761 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

This piece 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.

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 service was begun in 1761, and originally comprised 697 pieces, including 144 dinner plates, 48 soup plates and twelve shell-shaped salts on low scroll feet. It is thought that the dessert plates and possibly also the plat de ménage were added in 1763. The plat de ménage was a multi-part centrepiece with a lemon basket (C.248-1921) supported by figures including drunken Silenus on a donkey, and sculptural cruets and salts modelled with satyrs and fauns, all intended as part of a fixed central display. The two other lower baskets (this one C.249, and its pair 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.

Object details

Categories
Object type
TitleMöllendorf service (generic title)
Materials and techniques
Hard-paste porcelain with moulded and applied decoration, painted in enamels and gilded
Brief description
Lemon basket from a plat de ménage (centrepiece), part of the Möllendorf service, hard-paste porcelain with moulded and applied decoration, painted in enamels and gilded, designed by J.J. Kändler, made by Meissen porcelain factory, Germany, ca. 1761.
Physical description
Lemon basket from a plat de ménage (centrepiece), of hard-paste porcelain, in two sections, part of a dinner service. Oval, with wavy edge. Decorated with six panels moulded in low relief containing 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. 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 rococo column decorated with applied bunches of grapes, painted in natural colours, and foliation in pale green; on the sides are two panels painted with flowers in orange-red and gold. Within rococo border, moulded in relief and picked out in gold; near the top a seated putto, partly draped in a blue cloak, lined with pale pink and edged with gold, and holding bunches of grapes; on the base, a young faun, crowned with vine and holding a vine-branch and a goblet of wine; the whole standing on a rock base, shaded in pink, grey and pale yellow, and decorated with rococo scrollwork and foliation, moulded in relief and picked out in pale green and gold.
Dimensions
  • Height: 37.8cm
Marks and inscriptions
Crossed swords (Factory mark, in underglaze blue)
Gallery label
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)
Credit line
Purchased with the assistance of the Captain H. B. Murray Bequest
Object history
Part of a dinner service (Möllendorf Service), C.238 to 256-1921. Partly designed by Frederick the Great of Prussia.
Historical context
This lemon basket is from the plat de ménage (centrepiece or epergne) of the Mölledorf service, and this and its pair (C.249-1921) would have flanked by the taller lemon basket (C.248-1921). 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.
Subjects depicted
Association
Summary
This piece 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.

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 service was begun in 1761, and originally comprised 697 pieces, including 144 dinner plates, 48 soup plates and twelve shell-shaped salts on low scroll feet. It is thought that the dessert plates and possibly also the plat de ménage were added in 1763. The plat de ménage was a multi-part centrepiece with a lemon basket (C.248-1921) supported by figures including drunken Silenus on a donkey, and sculptural cruets and salts modelled with satyrs and fauns, all intended as part of a fixed central display. The two other lower baskets (this one C.249, and its pair 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.
Collection
Accession number
C.250-1921

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Record createdOctober 26, 2009
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