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The Swan Service (German: Schwanenservice) is a large service of baroque Meissen porcelain which was made for the First Minister of the Electorate of Saxony and favourite of Augustus III of Poland, Heinrich von Brühl. Augustus III had made Brühl the Supervisor of the Meissen works in 1733, then in August 1739 its Director. The Swan Service has been called "the most famous high baroque production in Meissen porcelain", "a triumph of modelling and firing", and "the most fabulous tableware conceived in porcelain". After earlier work with prototypes, the Meissen designers and modellers Johann Joachim Kändler, Johann Friedrich Eberlein and (from about 1741) Johann Gottlieb Ehder created the service, which consists of over 2,200 individual pieces, between 1737 and 1742.
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Swan Service
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The Swan Service (German: Schwanenservice) is a large service of baroque Meissen porcelain which was made for the First Minister of the Electorate of Saxony and favourite of Augustus III of Poland, Heinrich von Brühl. Augustus III had made Brühl the Supervisor of the Meissen works in 1733, then in August 1739 its Director. The Swan Service has been called "the most famous high baroque production in Meissen porcelain", "a triumph of modelling and firing", and "the most fabulous tableware conceived in porcelain". After earlier work with prototypes, the Meissen designers and modellers Johann Joachim Kändler, Johann Friedrich Eberlein and (from about 1741) Johann Gottlieb Ehder created the service, which consists of over 2,200 individual pieces, between 1737 and 1742. A service on such a scale and with such lavish sculptural elements was unprecedented; a later large Meissen service, the Möllendorff Dinner Service of the 1760s had under 1,000 pieces. The distinctive characteristic of the service, from which it gets its name, is its decoration in very low relief: each plate or other piece of flatware has a delicate background with radiating bands based on a scallop shell, against which there is in the central well a pair of swans on the water amid bullrushes, and a crane in the air, descending to join another on the left. The standing crane grasps a fish in his beak, and the head of another fish can be seen in the water beneath the swan on the right. Brühl in German means a damp, marshy place, so the theme of the service was a play on its owner's name. In January 1738 Kändler spent three days in the royal natural history collection at Dresden, where "I drew all sorts of shells and examined them closely, so that the ... service could be realized in the most natural manner". Such relief backgrounds were a speciality of Meissen under Kändler, but were usually more geometrical, as in the "osier" patterns, imitating wickerwork, or the "Dulong border" (from 1743) with a rather neoclassical plant-scroll pattern. Large pieces include opulent centrepieces, numerous candelabra, tureens. There are other items including teapots and cups and wall-sconces as well as the standard items of dinnerware. The decoration, apart from the small painted flowers of the pattern called indianische Blumen ("Indian flowers"), is themed around water and the life within, though often mixing fresh water and marine forms. Several parts of the service depict figures from Greco-Roman mythology, like Glaucus and the dolphin-riding Galateia. Almost all pieces of the original service bear the painted impaled coat of arms of Heinrich von Brühl and his wife, countess Franziska Kolowrat-Krakowsky, though pieces were also produced for other customers. Other painted decoration on the flatware pieces is gold rims and small flowers; the figures on the larger pieces are more fully painted.
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