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KPM – Sculpture on a Small Scale
Berlin Porcelain Figurines from 1751 to 1825

15.09.2016 to 28.01.2018

The Kunstgewerbemuseum is presenting a new exhibition at the Kulturforum, which is to showcase its collection of figurines produced by the Berlin porcelain factory, Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur, better known simply as KPM. The exhibition marks this year's publication of a comprehensive scholarly work by Dr Dorothee Heim, whose title translates as: Berlin Porcelain Figures and Their Sculptural Dimension, 1751–1825 (published by Schnell und Steiner).

Visitors will be able to see some 150 porcelain figurines created during a period that marked the transition from Rococo, the dominant style under Frederick the Great, to Neoclassicism. The period covered by both the exhibition and book spans the first seventy-five years of porcelain production in Berlin. This includes the period when two private companies, owned by Wilhelm Caspar Wegely and Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky respectively, operated (albeit briefly) as early pioneers of porcelain production in the city. It was there and, more particularly, at KPM, founded in 1763 at the behest of the Prussian King Frederick II, that numerous new figurines were created and gained a reputation for the high quality of their sculptural design.

The manufactory's first master modeller, Friedrich Elias Meyer, had previously worked at the Gotzkowsky factory after having been wooed to Berlin from his previous post at Meissen. In 1766 he brought his younger brother, Wilhelm Christian Meyer, to Berlin, where this gifted modeller proved to be a significant source of ideas for products. The emphasis upon the sculptural and artistic possibilities of porcelain was in particular evidence during this period. Porcelain sculpture at KPM experienced a second creative golden age under the stewardship of master modeller Johann Carl Friedrich Riese. The range of figurines produced in this period is testament to the prevailing influence of Neoclassicism. A significant creative force was Johann Gottfried Schadow, one of the most important representatives of Berlin Neoclassicism. Admiration for classical antiquity, coupled with the philosophy expounded by Johann Joachim Winckelmann aspiring to "noble simplicity and restrained greatness", were reflected in the various new sculptures produced by the KPM, which instead of being glazed and painted were now produced in pure white and unglazed bisque porcelain.

Satirical allegories of the liberal arts: sculpture (detail), designed by Wilhelm Christian Meyer, manufactured by KPM Berlin
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstgewerbemuseum / Fotostudio Bartsch, Berlin

10785 Berlin

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