Four Seasons Figurines

Four Seasons Figurines

Eloquent Testimony

Master modeller Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775) had designed “heads of the Four Seasons” as moulded embellishment for various types of ware at MEISSEN® when the Manufactory was still very young, and it wasn’t long before he re-addressed the subject with his first child figurines. These were allegorical renditions of the Seasons, a typically Rococo motif. It was from these much-loved figurines of cherubs and angels that Kaendler drew inspiration for the naked Four Seasons Children he modelled in 1765. His artistic hallmark is revealed in the very lifelike quality that each of his figurines exudes. In depicting each of them in full flow as if in a snapshot he bestows his figurines with vibrancy and a distinctive mode of expression. Spring scatters flowers over the land, Summer clutches a stook of corn, Autumn a garland of grapes whilst Winter runs on skates, his skimpy fur cape trailing behind.

 

The seasonal attributes are less conclusive in the couples modelled just under 20 years later, in around 1782, by Johann Carl Schönheit (1730-1805): trailing flowers and a birdcage symbolise the spring, ears of corn and a lute the summer, a billy goat, grape pannier and flute the autumn and a toboggan and brazier the winter. Schönheit’s graphic sources included etchings of Les Fleurs du Printemps (“Spring Flowers”) and Les Rigueurs de l’Hiver (“The Hardships of Winter”) by Pierre Adrian le Beau (1748-1805) – illustrations accompanying a volume of romantic pastoral poetry. Schönheit paired boys and girls on circular relief-moulded bases decorated in a manner typical of the age. 

The figurines by Johann Carl Schönheit have stylistic affinities with the “Gardener Children” produced by the then Modeller-in-Chief Michael Victor Acier (1736-1799), with whom he worked very closely. Several groups of figurine collectibles saw the light of day during this period whose cloyingly sweet, subliminally erotic rendition accorded with the fashion for Rococo and sentimentality – their artful versatility of detail still bearing eloquent testimony to the age today.