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An important and rare meissen white figure of a monkey circa 1732

  • GBR
  • 2013-05-01
關於此物
Modelled by J. J. Kändler for the Japanese Palace, Dresden, wearing a belt and seated on a tree stump taking a pinch of snuff from the oval box held in his left paw
The use of monkeys as pets and trained performers is recorded in Europe as early as the thirteenth century. In the 1759 edition of Essais Historiques sur Paris, Germain-François Poullain de Saint-Foix relates, on pp. 39-40, instances of the method by which tolls were to be paid at the entrance to Paris during the reign of Louis IX: "In a tariff by St. Louis to settle the tolls that were due at the entrance to Paris, in the Petit Châtelet, we read that the merchant transporting a monkey for sale, pays four deniers; if the monkey belongs to a joculator and they play and dance before the toll-collector, then the toll is paid. From this comes the proverb, 'pay in money, the monkey in romps'." There are also numerous examples of performing monkeys appearing as illustrative details in medieval illuminated manuscripts, such as those in the Harleian Collection in the British Library, where they are depicted dressed as a jester, balancing on stilts, playing a lute, with a trained bear or engaged in various other human activities.

Interest in monkeys imitating human behavior extended into the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, particularly in France among the aristocracy, where the genre known as singerie is reflected in the decorative motifs of Jean Bérain (1640-1711), the paintings of elegantly dressed monkeys by Claude Audran III (1658-1734) and the wall paintings of Christophe Huet (1700-1759) at Chateau Chantilly. The 1727 book, Fables, by John Gay, features, in Fable XIV, 'The Monkey who has seen the World', an engraving by Gerard Vandergucht, after a drawing by John Wootton (1682-1764), depicting a fashionably attired pigtailed monkey taking snuff. It is not surprising, then, that Kändler might choose to create an anthropormorphic monkey for the porcelain menagerie of Augustus the Strong, possibly modelled from life after examples at court or based on contemporary engravings. Kändler's work report of February 1732, as cited by Wittwer (2004), p. 291, records: 'So hat auch der Modellirer Kenntler...einen großen Affen von besonderer Arth...poussiret' [Modeller Kändler also...modelled...a large monkey of a special kind], which could refer to either the figure taking snuff or equally to the similar figure with grapes or chain.  Among the deliveries of 1731-32 there is one that includes three large white monkeys but there is no clear indication as to which of the models by Kändler either the work report or the delivery records refers.  The 1770 and 1779 inventories list four large white monkeys, "without young, all damaged". On 17th March 1849, the sale of one monkey taking snuff to Teichert in Meissen is recorded; and in 1900, there are only two monkeys remaining in the Royal Collection, one, white, and one, enamelled, both taking snuff. Therefore, of the four monkeys listed in the 1770 and 1779 inventories, at least three were snuff-taking figures, two of which were still in the Royal Collection in 1900. It follows then, that it may reasonably be assumed the present example was sold either in 1849 or at a slightly later date from the Collection of the Japanese Palace, possibly directly to Jacob Astley, 16th Baron Hastings (1797-1859), himself an avid collector of porcelain at the time.

In addition to the present example, there are two other monkeys of the same model known: an enamelled figure from the Dr. Fritz Mannheimer collection in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (inv. no. BK-17494), illustrated by den Blaauwen (2000), p. 402, cat. no. 293; and a white figure in the porcelain collection of the Dresden State Art Collections (inv. no. PE 974), illustrated by Wittwer, op. cit., p. 218, fig. 215 and Albiker (1935), pl. X, no. 26.
Sotheby's would like to thank Prof. Dr. Ulrich Pietsch for his kind assistance with the cataloguing and research of this lot.

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