Die Elementvasen im Porzellankabinett im Turmzimmer des Residenzschlosses Dresden

The so-called ‘Elements Vases’ are among the finest achievements
of the Meissen manufactory from the 18th century. But why does one of them
display the portrait and arms of French King Louis XV? Elector August III of Saxony
needed the help of the French King in a political affair and wanted to gift him an especially
valuable present in return. He knew that he could have something
unique made at the Meissen manufactory. With Johann Joachim Kändler, Augustus
brought an unique talent to Meissen. Kändler had trained
as a sculptor and woodcarver, but he quickly mastered
the completely novel and highly complex technology
of porcelain production. The five-piece set of vases shows
allegories of the four elements: Fire, water, air, and earth. At the centre, the flourishing Kingdom
of France with its ruler Louis XV. The Fire Vase, for example,
tells of war, with a battle scene in relief. Flanked by Mars, the God of War, Jupiter sits enthroned on the lid. The Elements Vases are very surprising. When we think of vases,
we think of receptacles. But Kändler interprets the basic form
of ewers and vases as sculptures, he dissolves the surfaces in reliefs and puts three-dimensional figures
on the shoulders, giving these vessels
an extremely lively, dynamic silhouette and offering us
a wealth of detail to admire. When the vases were completed, several
months after they’d been commissioned, the political situation
had already changed. It was no longer opportune
to send a gift to France, so the set of vases for Louis XV
remained in Dresden.

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