A rare Meissen large dish from the Sulkowski Service, circa 1735-38

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Lot 149*
A rare Meissen large dish from the Sulkowski Service, circa 1735-38

Sold for £ 13,812 (US$ 17,267) inc. premium
A rare Meissen large dish from the Sulkowski Service, circa 1735-38
Painted with two shaped escutcheons with the arms of Sulkowski and Stain zu Jettingen, flanked by rampant lion supports standing on a stepped plinth above a puce panel with gilt scrolls, the arms of Sulkowski with the sash and badge of the Order of the White Eagle, the well of the plate with scattered indianische Blumen within a Sulkowski Ozier moulded border, 43.3cm diam., crossed swords mark in underglaze-blue, incised V inside footrim (restored rim chip, typical very minor scattered wear)


  • The Sulkowski Service was the Meissen manufactory's first magnificent and large, privately commissioned armorial service to have been designed to order, preceding the more famous Swan Service by several years, and was the first that was not intended for the Elector/King.

    Alexander Joseph Graf von Sulkowski (1695-1762) was born into a prominent Polish noble family and entered royal service as a page at the Warsaw court. From 1711, he was raised in the household of the Electoral Prince Friedrich Augustus, the heir of Augustus the Strong, of whom he became a close friend. He accompanied the Prince as Master of the Horse on his travels for seven years from 1712, including his tours of Italy, France and Catholic German states, and subsequently became the head of the Prince's household. He became a Gentleman of the Bedchamber in 1726, was raised to a (Polish) count in 1732, and, following the accession of Friedrich Augustus in 1733, was made Privy Councillor, Minister of State, Cabinet Minister and an Imperial Count. Sulkowski was the first Pole to achieve such a position of power: he was in charge of most Court offices, and was responsible not only for the Green Vaults, which held the treasures of the Wettin dynasty, but was also in charge of the porcelain deliveries to the Japanese Palace. Sulkowski also was the recipient of numerous gifts and orders from both Augustus the Strong and his successor, Friedrich Augustus, including Schloß Übigau and the Flemmingsche Palais in Dresden, as well as the Polish Order of the White Eagle and the Order of St. Heinrich. Even Heinrich Graf von Brühl, Sulkowski's better-known successor and the receipient of the famous Swan Service, was subordinate to Sulkowski until the latter's fall from grace in February 1738.

    The long-held supposition that Brühl saw Sulkowski as a rival and engineered his downfall has been questioned by Dr. Rainer Rückert, who has suggested that the cause of the Elector and King's displeasure with Sulkowski, was probably that he used the Meissen manufactory for his own benefit without informing the manufactory commission or the King. Not only did he order a porcelain armorial service to be made for himself of princely magnificence but he even had it delivered to the King's own porcelain palace, the Japanese Palace (R.Rückert, Biographische Daten der Meißener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp.267-269).

    Sulkowski married (firstly) in 1728 a Lady in Waiting of the Electoral Princess, Maria Anna Franziska Catharina Freifrau von Stein zu Jettingen (1712-41), whose arms appear on the service together with those of her husband. The first explicit mention of the service in Kaendler's work notes (Arbeitsberichte) appears to be the large sugar box and cover "belonging to the order of His Excellency the Count Von Solkofsky (sic)" in September 1735. The manufactory inspector reported in May 1736 that although Kaendler, as well as the best Formers and Cleaners had worked on the service for a year and a half, it was not going to be possible to finish everything as Count Brühl had ordered a new service of "entirely new design" and the store rooms urgently needed tablewares, small animals, figures and birds for sale (quoted by Ingelore Menzhausen, In Porzellan verzaubert, p.189 - see facing page for the tureen from the service in the Pauls Collection, Basel).

    Production of the service seems to have continued until Sulkowski's fall, and there may even have been later deliveries (a dish in the Schneider Collection has an impressed numeral which would seem to date it after Sulkowski's dismissal; published by Rückert 1966, no.490). A list of the pieces delivered to the Japanese Palace, dated 8th February 1738 - three days after Sulkowski's dismissal - and signed by J.G. Höroldt himself was published by Hilde Rakebrandt, Meissener Tafelgeschirre des 18. Jahrhunderts (1958), pp.14-15. According to this list, the charger offered here is the second biggest shape produced for this service. The incised 'V' can be taken as an indication of size. There were originally 24 chargers of this size produced. Only one larger charger has been on the art market recently, a large charger of 46cm, of which, according to the specification, twelve were made for service (Kramarsky Collection, New York, sold Christie's New York, 30 October 1993 lot 34). Another charger which measures 47.5cm in the Schneider collection.

    Larger forms of the service seem to have been based, at least in part, on silver examples in the Dresden Residence: according to Fritz Fichtner (Meißner Porzellan für Polen und Rußland (1941), p.15), Sulkowski himself specified that the large tureens be copies of a silver tureen by the Augsburg goldsmith Johann Miller (or Biller, according to Rückert and Schnyder von Wartensee). The basket-moulded borders, now known as "Sulkowsky-Ozier", seem to have been used from around 1732.

    Sulkowski was permitted by the King to retain his titles and property, and four months after his fall he purchased the estates in Poland of the exiled Stanislaus Leszczinski. Friedrich Augustus even sought the advancement of his childhood friend with the Emperor in Vienna. In 1752, Sulkowski purchased the Silesian principality of Teschen and was raised to the rank of Prince of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1754 he was created Duke zu Bielitz and created Principal Master of the Hunt and Master of the Ordinance in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Sulkowski Service was the subject of one of the very earliest scholarly monographs on Meissen porcelain, when it was published by Julius Lessing in 1888 ("Das Porzellangeschirr Sulkowski", in Kunstgewerbeblatt, vol.4, pp.43-8). Much of the service was apparently sold shortly afterwards, though a substantial portion was preserved in the family home until it was sold by Sotheby's London ("The Property of a Lady of Title") on 23rd May 1967, lots 29-50 (one dish with 42.5cm diam. was sold as lot 37, possibly the present lot).

    A charger of this size was in the collection of Erich von Goldschmidt-Rothschild, Berlin (sold Ball & Graupe, Berlin, 23-25 March 1931, lot 606 - unillustrated). A charger of similar size was sold in these Rooms from the Hoffmeister Collection, 25 November 2009,
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