Merkle Meissen Masonic

Meissen masonic crinoline group of lovers by Kaendler c.1745, estimate: €40,000-60,000 at Bonhams Paris.

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The Merkle collection was started 50 years ago by German businessman Hadrian Maria Oskar Merkle (1942-2018),

Porcelain figures and groups were an essential part of table culture at European courts in the 18th century.

The discovery of the secret of hard-paste porcelain at Meissen around 1710 led to the replacement of sugar sculptures on the table with a finer and more durable material that could also be painted and gilded. They functioned both as an expression of court grandeur and as amusing tableau to stimulate conversation among the dinner guests.

Merkle's goal as a collector was to show the ambition of the Meissen factory as well as the genius of its master modeller, Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775). A student of the Dresden court sculptor Benjamin Thomae, Kaendler joined the royal porcelain factory in 1731. He perfectly understood the possibilities of the new material and over 40 years created a remarkable body of work in the late-Baroque and Rococo styles.

There are many exceptional examples among the 55 lots that make up the first tranche of the Merkle collection.

Considered one of the rarest and most beautiful of Kaendler’s early figures is the crinoline figure of a lady with a fan c.1737 (estimate €20,000-30,000). Based on an engraving published in 1736, the model is first mentioned in Kaendler's work records in December 1736. This example was previously part of two exceptional US collections of Meissen: that of Charles Dunlap (sold by Sotheby Parke Bernet in 1975) and the Christner collection, Dallas (sold by Christie’s New York in 1979).

A very rare model of lovers with a birdcage dating from 1745 shares the sale’s top estimate at €40,000-60,000. The group is also mentioned in Kaendler's work records in March 1741: A group, consisting of a man with a birdcage in which there is a parrot, beside him a woman giving the parrot cherries to eat and putting feathers on the man's head, whereas he presents her with a titmouse.

Another example of this group is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Further Merkle collection auctions will take place in Paris later in 2024 and in spring 2025.