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Meissen masterworks emerge from the sleep of centuries to astonish collectors at Bonhams
Recently a small number of Meissen items, plates bowls and vases, emerged from silent centuries buried in the cellar of an Italian palazzo. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- Cynics say that there is nothing new under the sun, but once in a while even in the rarefied world of Meissen collectors there is amazement – this is the case at Bonhams next sale of Fine European Ceramics on May 23 in London.

Recently a small number of Meissen items, plates bowls and vases, emerged from silent centuries buried in the cellar of an Italian palazzo, to dazzle and excite collectors and academics who study this area of the art world.

Sebastian Kuhn, Director of European Ceramics at Bonhams, says: “Like Sleeping Beauty these astonishing pieces – unrecorded in the literature – have emerged out of darkness where they have been lying dormant, probably for more than a century. It is unusual for so many pieces of an 18th-century service to remain together, and all the more exciting that they are decorated with a pattern unrecorded in the literature. The re-emergence of this service adds to our understanding of the important early period of Meissen porcelain.”

Lot 69 in this sale, seemingly bleached white as a bone, is in fact an extremely rare graduated set of four Meissen Böttger porcelain vases and covers, circa 1715. Modelled by Johann Jacob Irminger, of baluster shape, in three sizes, each with applied caryatid masks and elaborately moulded prunus branches, with serrated leaves and blossom lifting off the background. This group of four vases from the Busca Collection, Villa Serbelloni, Como, acquired in the 18th and 19th century, and by descent to the present owners, is estimated to sell for £60,000 to £80,000.

“Although individual elements of the applied decoration are familiar on Böttger porcelain, no other examples of these forms appear to be recorded in the literature and the survival of a set, albeit no longer complete, is of the utmost rarity,” says Sebastian Kuhn.

Sets, or garnitures as they were known, of Böttger stoneware and porcelain vases, sometimes including figures, were used to furnish the palaces of Augustus the Strong in Dresden and Warsaw, most notably the Japanese Palace in Dresden. Numerous such vases are recorded in the inventory of Augustus the Strong's collection in Dresden begun in 1721 with additions to 1727.

It is most likely that this set for sale at Bonhams was made for Augustus the Strong, and left the royal collection later.

Another part of this miraculous discovery, Lot 85 in the sale, is an extremely rare Meissen part table service, circa 1730-35 each piece painted in a delicate famille verte palette with three geese flanked by flowering plants and stylised rockwork, with another in flight overhead, and with three floral sprigs to the rims. This group of ceramics includes oval tureens, plates, soup plates and circular dishes estimated to sell for £30,000-50,000.

They are also from Busca Collection, Villa Serbelloni, Como, acquired in the 18th and 19th century, and by descent to the present owners.

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