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'Rococo Splendor': Meissen porcelain figurines on display at Poland's Wawel Castle

26.05.2024 23:30
An exceptional exhibition of Meissen porcelain sculptures is now on display at the Wawel Royal Castle in Kraków, southern Poland.
Photo:PAP/Łukasz Gągulski

The exhibition, entitled The Splendor of Rococo: Meissen Porcelain Figurines by Johann Joachim Kaendler, opened on Friday and runs until September 29.

The display, which is the first of its kind focusing on Kaendler, showcases more than 230 porcelain sculptures from private European collections and museums.

Organized in collaboration with the Munich-based Röbbig Gallery, The Splendor of Rococo showcases Kaendler’s figurative masterpieces and juxtaposes them with the Wawel collection, providing a comprehensive view of 18th-century courtly life.

The event marks an opportunity to appreciate the artistic legacy that Kaendler left behind, which continues to captivate collectors and art enthusiasts alike.

Johann Joachim Kaendler, born in 1706, became a pivotal figure in the history of porcelain art when he was appointed court sculptor by Augustus the Strong at the tender age of 25.

His entire career was devoted to the Meissen porcelain manufactory, where his artistic brilliance heralded the golden age of this renowned institution.

Photo: Photo: PAP/Łukasz Gągulski

Kaendler's creations, from his early days through the peak of his career, were heavily influenced by the courtly and aristocratic circles of 18th-century Saxony, reflecting the aesthetics from late Baroque to Rococo and emerging Classicism.

His work encapsulated the era’s elite lifestyles, showcasing scenes filled with hunting parties, theatrical performances, and even Masonic gatherings. Following the papal ban of 1738, these were often replaced by the Order of the Pug motifs.

Notably, in 1736, Kaendler crafted his first crinoline groups, vividly portraying the daily and romantic lives of the courtiers, named after the structured petticoats that shaped women’s skirts.

Kaendler also catered to the era's fascination with the bucolic idyll and the pastoral, a secret longing among the nobility that would later be epitomized by Marie-Antoinette’s Hameau at Versailles.

His figures, including those of common folk such as craftsmen and peasants, and the Cries of Paris series depicting various professions, mirrored this trend.

The global trade and exploration of the time spurred a curiosity for the exotic, which Kaendler met with figures dressed in national costumes from distant lands and animals previously unknown to Central Europeans, such as elephants and lions.

His ability to infuse family dynamics into these figures added a unique charm and depth to his works.

Photo: Photos: PAP/Łukasz Gągulski

Prof. Andrzej Betlej, director of the Wawel Royal Castle, said: “Through this exhibition, we explore Kaendler’s work deeper, honoring him with a show that narrates the most brilliant period of the Meissen workshop's activities.”

The exhibition is co-curated by Dorota Gabryś of Wawel Castle's Ceramics and Glass collection, and other renowned curators.

It is set against a backdrop that draws from the grand opera stage traditions, designed by opera director, set and costume designer Pier Luigi Pizzi and architect and opera director Massimo Pizzi Gasparon Contarini.


Source: PAP, polskieradio.pl