Two saké bottles, Meissen, c. 1728. Photo courtesy Röbbig München
Crossed swords in underglaze blue with curved hilts and dot pommels (somewhat smudged before firing), one bottle with the blue-painter’s sign L. Mounts, silver, engraved. H. 17.5 cm (6⅞ in.). Price on request.
These two four-cornered flasks with rounded bottoms and long cylindrical necks display a similar form to that of the Japanese saké bottle. While their decoration is likewise oriented towards the East Asian tradition in that each of the four flat side surfaces bears a Japanese or Chinese figure in coloured enamels, this figural decoration is placed amid European foliate borders in underglaze blue, which also run around the necks. This sophisticated combination of two different painting techniques, the one under and the other over the glaze, was not practised very frequently at the Meissen manufactory on account of the high production costs. It is only found on single (i.e., non-serial)pieces, which were very likely made for the King himself or for special patrons and royal favourites.
It can be assumed that the two different kinds of painting were done by two different decorators, a blue-painter and an enamel-painter. While the blue foliate ornament displays no special features and thus cannot be attributed to a particular hand, the decorator responsible for the coloured figures can be identified with ease. These magnificently dressed East Asian gentlemen with jet-black hair are seen standing on swards of brown earth in front of colourfully patterned garden fences and ‘Indian’ shrubs bearing flowers such as peonies and chrysanthemums. They are holding either striped parasols or large fans and their faces are simply outlined with lines in iron-red without any flesh tint. They make an exotic impression and even look a little outlandish on account of being somewhat distortedly drawn.
The Dresden restorer Richard Seyffarth has convincingly attributed decoration of this kind to the ‘Master of the Chinamen with the fans’ Johann Ehrenfried Stadler (1701–1741), founding his attribution on the evidence of a Meissen porcelain lantern in the Dresden Porcelain Collection (inv. no. PE 1522) that bears figures extremely similar to those on the present saké bottles and is marked with the cryptogram ‘JESt’.
Stadler worked as a painter at the Dresden faience manufactory of his brother-in-law Peter Eggebrecht before being lured away to Meissen by Johann Gregorius Höroldt (1691–1775) in 1724. There he worked as a journeyman-painter and followed a stylistic line in clear contradiction to the chinoiserie painting propagated by Höroldt, with the result that a great deal of decoration can be attributed with certainty to him on the basis of a limited number of signed examples.
Provenance: In the nineteenth century the bottles were in the important C. H. Fischer Collection, Dresden, which was sold in 1906 in Cologne at the auction-house of Lempertz (see Otto von Falke, Katalog der ausgewählten und erstklassigen Sammlung Alt-Meißner Porzellan, published by J.M. Häberle of Cologne, 1906, no. 945, illus. p. 142).
Literature: R. Seyffarth, ‘Johann Ehrenfried Stadler, der Meister der Fächerchinesen’, Keramos, Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft der Keramikfreunde e.V. Düsseldorf, 1960/10