Animals of Meissen


General Information

Jul. 6 – Sept. 23, 2019
10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Admittance until 5:30 p.m.)
* Open until 8 p.m. (admittance until 7:30 p.m.) on Aug. 2 and Sept. 6.
Wednesday, as well as Aug. 13 and 15
Adults: ¥1,000
Visitors aged 65 or over carrying proof of age: ¥900
Students (College): ¥700  
Students (High / Middle school): ¥500
Admission is free for children in primary school and younger.
Groups of 20 or more will receive a ¥100 discount per person (not including those aged 65 or over).
Admission is free for disability passbook holders and up to one accompanying adult.
Panasonic Shiodome Museum, The Tokyo Shimbun
German Embassy in Tokyo, Minato Ward Board of Education

Exhibition Overview

Germany’s Meissen porcelain manufactory was established by royal decree in 1710 and became the first European factory to successfully produce hard-paste porcelain. This exhibition focuses on Meissen’s well-known animal figurines. Meissen’s artists were influenced by the Art Nouveau movement—which was taking place in Europe at the turn of the 19th century—and incorporated the movement’s aesthetics into everything from teacups to figurines. During this time, the artists mastered both the techniques of inglazing —in which paint is applied before glazing—and overglazing—in which decoration is applied to an existing layer of glaze before re-firing—allowing them to produce a rich palette of subtle shades.

Production of animal-themed artwork spans the history of art throughout the world. Some works, historically, are sculpted or drawn as symbols, while others are simply representative, conveying the intrinsically charming nature of animals. Meissen’s work is no less diverse. The patterns and details of Meissen’s animal pieces, especially during the Art Nouveau movement, masterfully depict the liveliness of animals with realism and grace. In this exhibition, the Art Nouveau pieces take center stage. Meissen’s sculpture and decoration are presented as never before, among a display of porcelain and stoneware accompanied by catalogues and other written documents.

Exhibition highlights

An exhibition dedicated to Meissen’s animal figures!
This exhibition features exquisitely rendered, graceful depictions of animals-- both in series of figurines (such as Reynard the Fox and Monkey Orchestra) and as images painted on vases and dishware.

Most pieces displayed for the first time
Ninety percent of the pieces in this exhibition will be on exhibit for the first time ever. Many belong to private collections and may never be displayed for the public again. Don’t miss your chance!

Of a total of 120 works, 80% are figurines
Meissen is known for its fine tableware, but the same high quality is evident in this exhibition’s animal figurines. Visitors will be able to fully appreciate Meissen’s remarkable sculpting craftsmanship.

I. Animals from Myth and Fable

Much of Western art has incorporated a long-held tradition of drawing from myths and fables. This is the case in painting and sculpture, as well as in crafts like ceramics. Section I introduces Meissen porcelain depicting motifs drawn from such myths and fables. Visitors can enjoy Monkey Orchestra—a series of porcelain animals whose lively expressions mimic those of humans—as well as The Four Continents, which reflects the public’s fascination with new frontiers following the discovery of the New World.

≪Monkey Orchestra≫
Johann Joachim Kaendler, Peter Reinicke
c.1820 – 1920
Private Collection

II. Animals on Functional Ware

European ceramic producers like Meissen also decorated their functional ware with delightful animal-themed ornamentation—either painted on or sculpted and affixed. The Snowball series is well-known and beloved, each work covered in tiny molded porcelain flowers. Over time, the Snowball series developed even more nature-themed elements with the addition of exquisitely sculpted songbirds. This series is the centerpiece of Section II, which introduces Meissen’s animal-themed functional ware.

≪Snowball Jar with Lid, Applied Blossom Clusters, Insects, Birds and Openwork≫
Johann Joachim Kaendler
c.1820 – 1920
Private Collection

III. Art Nouveau Animals

From the late 1800s to early 1900s, the Art Nouveau movement (Jugendstil in German) swept through the arts and crafts community in Europe. Art Nouveau is characterized by sweeping curves and organic forms—elements which were incorporated into Meissen’s works. To enhance these curves, Meissen introduced a technique called overglazing, in which glost-fired pieces are treated with in-glaze paints, which sink into the glaze during a second firing. This results in a characteristic delicate, diffused appearance and colors that will not fade, since they are protected by being sealed between the glaze and the clay. In Section III, visitors can view highly expressive dogs, cats, and penguins, beautifully portrayed in soft shades of color.

≪Two Cats≫
Otto Pilz
c.1934 – 1940
Private Collection

IV. Max Esser’s Animals

Max Esser was a sculptor who worked as a modeler at Meissen in the 1920s and 30s. He was instrumental in bringing the Art Deco movement to Meissen. Esser’s Böttger-ware animal figurines greatly contributed to putting his name on the map. In addition to Esser’s own Böttger-ware and porcelain animals, Section IV also displays animal figures molded by artists influenced by Esser.

≪Reynard the Fox≫
Max Esser
c.1924 – 1934
Private Collection