The Meissen manufactory near the city of Dresden was founded by Augustus II (1670-1733), King of Poland and Electoral of Saxony, in 1710. It was the first factory in Europe to succeed in making white hard-paste porcelain. The early years of the Meissen production were focused on creating copies of Chinese porcelain. It was only when Kaendler began to work at Meissen in 1731 that the manufactory would break free from the influence of Asia and produce porcelain of true European character.
A sculptor by training, Kaendler took over the direction of the manufactory in 1733. He is considered the key figure in the development of Meissen and the individual behind the transformation of the factory’s porcelain during the eighteenth century. Kaendler demonstrated his artistic ability by creating a variety of porcelain groups including the Italian Commedia dell’Arte, Pastoral and Crinoline groups, and Cris de Paris, which were met with widespread acclaim and made Meissen famous throughout all of Europe. Soon these porcelain figures would be used extensively alongside vases and other ornaments to decorate interiors.
The themes of fête galante, pastoral idylls and masquerade themes, created by Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), and then developed further by Francois Boucher (1703-1770) and Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), depicting amorous scenes with dancers, women and shepherds engaged in frivolous pursuits, spread all over Europe during the first half of the eighteenth century. This is due to the French engraver Gabriel Huquier (1695-1747), who dedicated himself to images and engravings after Francois Boucher and Juste-Aurele Meissonnier (1695-1750), who fostered the concept of Rococo style, that brought about the new trend in decorative arts.
In 1738, Kaendler introduced one of his figures in pastoral costume with the Handkuss (Hand-kiss) scene under a tree. For the shepherd lovers’ scene, the German sculptor drew his inspiration from Boucher and Watteau. Since the 1730s, the Meissen manufactory has been providing Watteau’s engravings for artists of the workshop. Moreover, Johann Christian Count von Hennicke (1681 or 1792-1752), vice-director of the factory from 1739 onwards, commissioned the Livres de Sujets et Pastorales after Francois Boucher’s paintings, from which Kaendler drew his inspiration.
Kaendler’s remark that the work features a “well-dressed shepherd seems to be of importance, for this means there was a certain etiquette to maintain for people of rank who were dressed up, even for those shepherds who in reality looked quite modest. Thus here, they appear as a magnificent, dandified couple under a tree with a squirrel sitting in its leaves. It is only by way of the animals that we recognize the couple as a shepherd pair. The gentlemen, bowing forward, takes the lady’s hand in his right hand and brings it up to his mouth to kiss. Here too, courtly conventions are strictly observed, in that the couple expressed their affection for one another in the most decent of manner.
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