Here is a stunning figure that tells a story. Note the difference in the ages of the two women. One is mature, the other is young. The young woman is wearing garlands of flowers, a symbol of fertility, but the basket at her feet has spilled, and the eggs within have been broken. She turns her head away and clutches at her dress as if she’s cold and in despair. The elder woman, probably her mother, looks up at her and reaches out as if to console her daughter. In a symbolic way, I think we can see represented in sculptural form the numbing effects of the death of a child, contrasted with the hope of bearing more children in the future. It is a touching portrait of aristocratic French women of the old order caught in the throes of a personal tragedy. The creator of this figure, Michel Victor Acier, was lured to Meissen in 1764 from Paris, where he was an aspiring sculptor. Acier worked within the new artistic tendencies of both classicism and sentimentalism, as contrasted with the Baroque style of his predecessor at Meissen, Johann Joachim Kandler. In the 1770s he created groups depicting intimate family scenes and everyday life such as this. Acier remains best-known for his sculptures of children, but this touching creation must also be considered one of his masterpieces. The detail is without compare. Everywhere you look, there is a perfection of minute and precise modeling, making it obvious why Meissen has always been known as the best of the best. The figure is only nine and a half inches tall, including the base, but it contains two full-length figures of women with amazingly elaborate coiffures, two cherubs, extravagant gowns worthy of a formal ball, with lace, ribbons and bows, the rocky ground, a stool with a tasseled cushion, the basket of broken eggs, and swags of flowers with hundreds of petals, each individually modeled by hand. Underneath, it bears the triangular mark used on Meissen figures in the late 18th century, during the period when Count Marcolini was the director of the factory (1774-1813). This figure has regularly been reproduced at the Meissen factory, but usually not in such impressive detail, and most often the later examples are colored, so the extra layer of glaze obscures some of the finest detail work. (Often the delicate handle of the basket is not even included and the older woman’s hat is far less ornate.) This figure is a prime 18th-century example, since the most highly prized figures were the ones that came out of the kiln perfect, as if they were the whitest marble. Colored glazes were used on the figures that had obvious flaws and couldn’t be sold in the white. The white figures, the ones that came perfect from the kiln, are far rarer than the colored ones. There are a few repairs—the older woman’s hat and her extended hand, some of the flowers, etc., but nothing major. This museum-worthy figure is ready to be the highlight of your collection.
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