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Priceless porcelain used as Russian shooting targets comes to Bonhams from brink of destruction
The service was originally ordered in 1736 by Heinrich Graf von Brühl, the most powerful man in Dresden during the mid 18th Century, and comprised over 2,200 pieces. Estimate: £25,000–35,000. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- An extremely rare Meissen chocolate cup and saucer is one of the key highlights in Bonhams exquisite single owner ceramics sale on 5th December. It is estimated at £25,000 – 35,000 and originally formed part of the stunning Swan service, which was largely smashed to pieces in post-war rampages by the Red Army at the end of the Second World War.

The service was originally ordered in 1736 by Heinrich Graf von Brühl, the most powerful man in Dresden during the mid 18th Century, and comprised over 2,200 pieces. The exceptional service stayed in the family for over two centuries until it fell to violent destruction at the end of the war. A staggering 50 percent of the service was destroyed or stolen and it is thought that many pieces were shattered by the Red Army, who threw the priceless plates and saucers high into the air to be used as clay pigeon shooting targets.

The service was the only one of its kind, and as such from 1880 many of the pieces were lent to museums in Dresden and Berlin or passed to collectors. It is only these pieces which remained safe from destruction when the Brühl family’s castle, Schloss Pförten, was burned to the ground. The porcelain was all the more rare as it was one of the few large services to be made for an important Saxon courtier. Court etiquette in the 18th Century forced the King and his family to eat from gold or silver plates and forbade him to eat from his most cherished porcelain. Augustus the Strong, the founder of the Meissen factory, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland said that he loved nothing more than porcelain, yet he was prevented from ever using it at the table himself, due to the strict court etiquette.

The chocolate cup and saucer are exquisite examples of the beautiful modelling, which characterised the Swan service. It features intricate decoration with swans, a stork and reeds. In the mid to late 18th Century, moulding started to become more important than painting as a form of Meissen decoration and this service is one of the first examples of J.J Kaendler’s stunning work.

As well as items from the Swan service, the sale includes eight objects from the ‘Half figure service’, arguably the rarest and most sought after chinoiserie decoration on Meissen porcelain, estimated at £500,000 – 700,000. Many pieces in the collection have been published and exhibited in museum exhibitions, including the legendary 2010 exhibition in the Japanese Palace in Dresden to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Meissen manufactory.

Sebastian Kuhn, Director of European porcelain at Bonhams said, “The Said and Roswitha Marouf Collection is one of the most valuable collections of Meissen porcelain in the world and brings together so many exceptionally rare pieces. The chocolate cup and saucer, part of the Swan service, is an exquisite item and represents some of the most beautiful modelling and decoration ever achieved in Meissen porcelain. The troubled backdrop to the Swan service makes it all the more rare and desirable.”

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