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Johann Joachim Kaendler’s Swan Centrepiece – a Baroque masterpiece shines with renewed splendour
In 2019, together with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, MEISSEN presented the result of an eight-year reconstruction project that brought together the expertise of the manufactory and that of the museum’s curators: the first-ever complete reproduction of Johann Joachim Kaendler’s Swan Service centrepiece. The three-tiered composition is the central element and masterpiece of Kaendler’s epochal Swan Service, which, with more than 2,200 pieces, is considered to be the ultimate expression of Baroque dining culture.
Today, only the base of the original centrepiece from 1741 remains. It is currently part of the Rijksmuseum’s permanent collection. On the basis of this original piece and a historical drawing by Berling, the missing pieces were reconstructed in the style of the era to complete the fragmented original moulds from the Meissen Archives. Without this close collaboration, such a historically accurate reproduction of the complete centrepiece would not have been possible.
"The first-ever full reproduction of Johann Joachim Kaendler’s Swan Centrepiece allows a milestone of Baroque dining culture to shine with renewed splendour."
Commissioned in 1736 by the First Minister of the Electorate of Saxony, the powerful Count Heinrich von Brühl, the original “Swan Service” took five years to complete. With more than 2,200 pieces, it was more than just a set of dishware. It was a visually stunning work of art that surpassed everything that had come before it in terms of colours, shapes, and opulence. As its core motif, the mythology of water is reflected in countless reliefs and figurative depictions, all of which focusing around the magnificent centrepiece as its crowning element. Spread over the entire table, Glaucus, Galatea and her entourage, sea nymphs, child Tritons, and dolphins emerge from the dynamic surfaces and individual pieces. Kaendler was thus able to combine beauty and functionality in an utterly unique way while at the same time raising the bar for Baroque table settings across Europe. Designed to resemble an expressive group of swans grouped around a central cluster of shells, the salt and pepper shakers, sugar dish, oil and vinegar bottles, and mustard pots play on the eponymous theme of the service while at the same time setting an exuberant tone for the centrepiece itself. An intricately decorated, ornate dish rises up behind these figures, held aloft by bundles of reeds and dolphins. The front side of the dish features a Triton and a water nymph, both seated inside an upturned shell perched atop the head of Neptune and holding up the Brühl-Kolowrat-Krakowský allied coat of arms along with a crown. The entire three-tiered ensemble is topped with yet another scalloped shell, which is crowned with an ornate, perforated rim made of gilded foliage. The scalloped shell is being lifted up by a water nymph and a child Triton, as well as a Triton blowing into a conch shell. As in the original, the entire Swan Topper rests on an intricate base made of gold-plated bronze.