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Repairing a Meissen Lion + King Augustus the Strong’s Menagerie

Commissioned by King Augustus the Strong (1670-1733), Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, for his Japanese Palace in Dresden, The Meissen Lion was one of hundreds of porcelain mammals and birds planned for creation by the famous Royal Porcelain Manufactory in Meissen. Though the project was not completed — “By January 1736, 412 birds and 160 quadrupeds had been delivered” — five other lions, including a lioness, still exist from the original collection.

Conservator Diana de Bellaigue and her team recently repaired the powerful-looking yet fragile lion, above. Plus, some background from National Museums Scotland:

In the porcelain production process, a plaster mould was created from a large model, usually made from clay, but with the large porcelain animals this led to problems. The model had to be made bigger than the size intended for the finished figure as, once fired, the porcelain would shrink by up to a sixth of its original size.

Once the plaster mould had been created, a special porcelain paste would be pressed into each of two separate halves. The porcelain paste was then removed from the mould and joined together to create a complete figure. Once the figures had been assembled and given their finishing touches, they were left out in the air to dry out completely and then given a low firing and glazed. The large animal figures were too big to be dipped into glaze so they were basted.

Additional problems sometimes occurred when the glaze was fired, causing discolouration and cracking. The large animals also had to be hollow, as solid ones would not have survived the firing. In order to make the figures stable, experiments were carried out using various designs and support constructs. The whole production process could take weeks to complete.

Related reading: The Meissen Vulture, The Meissen Billy Goat, and from 2006, Passion for Porcelain From the Age of Reason.

Watch this next: Kintsugi & kintsukuroi – The art of pottery mending with gold.

Thanks, @cawston.

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