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The Triumph of Amphitrite thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Europe 1600-1815, Room 3

The Triumph of Amphitrite

Table Decoration
1745-1746 (modelled), 1745-1747 (made), 1774-1815 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

This grand table-fountain was originally commissioned by Saxony’s most influential Cabinet Minster at the court in Dresden, Count Heinrich von Brühl, in 1745. Based on a stone fountain, sculpted by Lorenzo Mattielli, which still stands in the garden of Brühl’s former summer palace in Dresden Friedrichstadt, this porcelain version was modelled by Meissen’s chief modeller J.J. Kändler and his assistants.

The table-fountain was first used for a very special occasion. On 11th January 1747, von Brühl hosted a splendid supper in his Dresden Palace to celebrate the royal marriage between the Dauphin, the crown-prince of France, and Princess Maria Josepha of Saxony. The arrangement of this important alliance between France and Saxony was one of Brühl’s diplomatic masterstrokes. The porcelain fountain was the centrepiece for the main table during the dessert course, where – running with water – its novelty was much admired. After Brühl's death, the fountain entered in the possession of Count Marcolini, who had taken over many of Brühl's official functions, including that of director of the Meissen porcelain factory. Marcolini restored the porcelain fountain, replacing all the damaged parts with new ones made at the Meissen factory, using the original moulds. Marcolini installed it in the orangery of his summer palace as a water feature which included a goldfish basin.

By the time it was acquired by the Museum in 1870 it was fragmentary and much damaged and its original provenance had been lost. Only the main figural pieces were on display while the remainder, including many fragmentary pieces, remained in store. In 2011, we embarked on a research and restoration programme. Many of the damaged parts were carefully restored by the Museum's conservators. We have also used scanning technology to create virtual, 3D models of the missing parts of the fountain. These scans are based on a second, nineteenth-century version of the fountain in the stores of the Porzellansammlung in Dresden. We used cutting-edge 3D printing and machine-tooling technology to translate these 3D scans into enlarged models. From these models we took plaster moulds. Steve Brown at the Royal College of Art in London used the moulds to create new replacement parts in porcelain.

The stone fountain in Brühl's garden, on which this porcelain model is based, has an interesting iconography. We see Neptune, arriving on a shell-chariot, accompanied by his bride Amphitrite and flanked by two river gods representing the Nile and Tiber. It is thought that Neptune is about to present his laurel wreath to honour Prince-Elector Augustus III of Saxony. In this way, Count Von Brühl intended to invoke a comparison between his ruler and Augustus, the first Roman emperor, who united his realm to include both Rome (the Tiber) and Egypt (the Nile), and initiated an era of relative peace known as the ‘Pax Romana’. When the porcelain fountain was used at the royal wedding feast the meaning of the scene was almost certainly changed. It was then referred to as 'the Triumph of Amphitrite' and it is likely that a parallel was drawn between Neptune's bride and Princess Maria Josepha of Saxony, about to get married to the Dauphin.

Kändler was clearly the principal modeller of the fountain, closely assisted by Ehder and Eberlein. Ehder assisted Kändler in Dresden in November 1745, when they first began work on the fountain. Eberlein, for instance, refined and cut up Kändler’s clay model of Amphitrite, so that moulds could be taken from the parts. During November and December 1745 and January 1746, Eberlein also refined the plaster moulds for most of the other figures, including Neptune, the nymph, the child, both the river gods, the two sea-horses, the triton and one of the large shell-basins. Ehder modelled the four vases that were originally made for the fountain in October 1746, as well as other architectural parts, including a rock and the water-wheel for the shell-wagon in November of that year. Kändler, who modelled all the figures during the first months of the project, again turned his attention to the centrepiece a year later, in November and December 1746, when he modelled the walls with icicles; two other large architectural pieces, almost certainly the plinths for the river gods; the borders; most of the rocks; and the two large shell-basins. Finally, in December, he also corrected one of the vases modelled with a relief of Bacchus. It seems that, with the wedding date approaching, work on the vases ran a little late, as in the same month Ehder finished the relief of one of them, and Peter Reinicke, who had not been involved so far, modelled the relief for another.

A number of parts of the original Meissen fountain installed at Brühl’s palace in 1747 survive. These include the Amphitrite, the Triton blowing its shell horn, and the two river gods. The replacement parts made for Marcolini between 1774 and 1815, include the Neptune, the second sea nymph and the two sea-horses. The final replacement parts, made in 2013-14 in collaboration with the Royal College of Art in London, mostly consist of rocks, walls and border parts, as well as the paddle-wheels and the large, lower basin. A diagram attached to this record shows which parts were created in which period. See record C.27:1 to 22-2015 for replacement parts made in 2013-14

Object details

Categories
Object type
Parts
This object consists of 38 parts.

  • Figural Element
  • Figural Element
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  • Architectural Element
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  • Architectural Element
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  • Architectural Element
  • Architectural Element
  • Architectural Element
  • Architectural Element
  • Architectural Element
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TitleThe Triumph of Amphitrite (published title)
Materials and techniques
Hard-paste porcelain
Brief description
Porcelain table decoration, Meissen, Germany, 18th century. Previously described as Meissen fountain.
Dimensions
  • Height: 1m (Note: Measurement of full assembly)
  • Width: 3.9m (Note: Measurement of full assembly)
  • Depth: 1.4m (Note: Measurement of full assembly)
Marks and inscriptions
(Some pieces marked with crossed swords and star, with two blue lines, in underglaze blue or blue enamel.)
Credit line
Restoration and research supported by the Arnhold family and by the Henry Arnhold Exchange Programme
Subjects depicted
Summary
This grand table-fountain was originally commissioned by Saxony’s most influential Cabinet Minster at the court in Dresden, Count Heinrich von Brühl, in 1745. Based on a stone fountain, sculpted by Lorenzo Mattielli, which still stands in the garden of Brühl’s former summer palace in Dresden Friedrichstadt, this porcelain version was modelled by Meissen’s chief modeller J.J. Kändler and his assistants.

The table-fountain was first used for a very special occasion. On 11th January 1747, von Brühl hosted a splendid supper in his Dresden Palace to celebrate the royal marriage between the Dauphin, the crown-prince of France, and Princess Maria Josepha of Saxony. The arrangement of this important alliance between France and Saxony was one of Brühl’s diplomatic masterstrokes. The porcelain fountain was the centrepiece for the main table during the dessert course, where – running with water – its novelty was much admired. After Brühl's death, the fountain entered in the possession of Count Marcolini, who had taken over many of Brühl's official functions, including that of director of the Meissen porcelain factory. Marcolini restored the porcelain fountain, replacing all the damaged parts with new ones made at the Meissen factory, using the original moulds. Marcolini installed it in the orangery of his summer palace as a water feature which included a goldfish basin.

By the time it was acquired by the Museum in 1870 it was fragmentary and much damaged and its original provenance had been lost. Only the main figural pieces were on display while the remainder, including many fragmentary pieces, remained in store. In 2011, we embarked on a research and restoration programme. Many of the damaged parts were carefully restored by the Museum's conservators. We have also used scanning technology to create virtual, 3D models of the missing parts of the fountain. These scans are based on a second, nineteenth-century version of the fountain in the stores of the Porzellansammlung in Dresden. We used cutting-edge 3D printing and machine-tooling technology to translate these 3D scans into enlarged models. From these models we took plaster moulds. Steve Brown at the Royal College of Art in London used the moulds to create new replacement parts in porcelain.

The stone fountain in Brühl's garden, on which this porcelain model is based, has an interesting iconography. We see Neptune, arriving on a shell-chariot, accompanied by his bride Amphitrite and flanked by two river gods representing the Nile and Tiber. It is thought that Neptune is about to present his laurel wreath to honour Prince-Elector Augustus III of Saxony. In this way, Count Von Brühl intended to invoke a comparison between his ruler and Augustus, the first Roman emperor, who united his realm to include both Rome (the Tiber) and Egypt (the Nile), and initiated an era of relative peace known as the ‘Pax Romana’. When the porcelain fountain was used at the royal wedding feast the meaning of the scene was almost certainly changed. It was then referred to as 'the Triumph of Amphitrite' and it is likely that a parallel was drawn between Neptune's bride and Princess Maria Josepha of Saxony, about to get married to the Dauphin.

Kändler was clearly the principal modeller of the fountain, closely assisted by Ehder and Eberlein. Ehder assisted Kändler in Dresden in November 1745, when they first began work on the fountain. Eberlein, for instance, refined and cut up Kändler’s clay model of Amphitrite, so that moulds could be taken from the parts. During November and December 1745 and January 1746, Eberlein also refined the plaster moulds for most of the other figures, including Neptune, the nymph, the child, both the river gods, the two sea-horses, the triton and one of the large shell-basins. Ehder modelled the four vases that were originally made for the fountain in October 1746, as well as other architectural parts, including a rock and the water-wheel for the shell-wagon in November of that year. Kändler, who modelled all the figures during the first months of the project, again turned his attention to the centrepiece a year later, in November and December 1746, when he modelled the walls with icicles; two other large architectural pieces, almost certainly the plinths for the river gods; the borders; most of the rocks; and the two large shell-basins. Finally, in December, he also corrected one of the vases modelled with a relief of Bacchus. It seems that, with the wedding date approaching, work on the vases ran a little late, as in the same month Ehder finished the relief of one of them, and Peter Reinicke, who had not been involved so far, modelled the relief for another.

A number of parts of the original Meissen fountain installed at Brühl’s palace in 1747 survive. These include the Amphitrite, the Triton blowing its shell horn, and the two river gods. The replacement parts made for Marcolini between 1774 and 1815, include the Neptune, the second sea nymph and the two sea-horses. The final replacement parts, made in 2013-14 in collaboration with the Royal College of Art in London, mostly consist of rocks, walls and border parts, as well as the paddle-wheels and the large, lower basin. A diagram attached to this record shows which parts were created in which period. See record C.27:1 to 22-2015 for replacement parts made in 2013-14
Collection
Accession number
246:1-1870

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Record createdOctober 16, 2019
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