Meissen vases

A pair of c.1735 red-ground bottle Meissen porcelain vases – £660,000 at Bonhams on December 7.

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The pair of Meissen red-ground bottle vases, c.1735, were sold at the 500 Years of European Ceramics sale at Bonhams on December 7.

They were part of a 20-lot tranche of 18th century European porcelain from the celebrated collection formed by the German-born, Argentine heiress Catalina von Pannwitz, nee Roth (1876-1959). They quadrupled the pre-sale estimate of £120,000-180,000 to sell for £660,000.

Catalina von Pannwitz, the second wife of the German lawyer and art collector Walter von Pannwitz (1858-1920), had sold their Berlin villa and moved to the Netherlands after he died. She displayed her magnificent collection of porcelain by leading German and French factories at De Hartekamp, a stately home in Heemstede. These vases were purchased for the property from the dealer Alfons Heilbronner, Berlin, in 1924.

This form appears to have been made exclusively for the Dresden court and all known examples are marked with the AR monogram for Augustus Rex. Made in several sizes (at 14.5in or 37cm these are the largest), most were produced for the Japanese Palace in Dresden. A pair were delivered to the Palace in July 1734, and another five of the same size were delivered in 1737.

Red is one of the rarer Meissen ground colours and is known mostly in combination with European landscape scenes dating to the early 1740s. The only other recorded example of this type with quatrelobe cartouches of chinoiserie decoration from a decade earlier is a vase and cover pictured in black and white in the catalogue that was sold by Berlin auctioneer Paul Graupe in 1935.

Meissen vase decoration detail

A detail of the decoration of a pair of c.1735 red-ground bottle Meissen porcelain vases.

This ‘contour’ style of decoration – quite different from the more typical chinoiserie decoration associated with JG Höroldt –  has been associated with the porcelain painter AF von Löwenfinck, who was active at Meissen until 1736. The style is based on prints published in Amsterdam and Leipzig by Petrus Schenk and his son.

Bonhams director of decorative arts Nette Megens commented: “This is an exceptional result for an important and hitherto unrecorded pair of vases. The price they achieved is a testament to the taste of one of the greatest collectors of the 20th century to whom they once belonged.” The record prices for Meissen porcelain are held by the handful of models of animals and birds made for the porcelain menagerie at the Japanese Palace. In September 2021, the Rijksmuseum bid  $1.2m (£923,000) at Sotheby’s New York to purchase a 1727 clock case modelled by George Fritzsche and decorated with chinoiserie vignettes in the manner of JG Höroldt that had been restituted to the family of the German businessman and art collector Dr Franz Oppenheimer (1871-1950).