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Currently on view at: Getty Center, Museum East Pavilion, Gallery E103
A Fox with a Chicken
Meissen, Germany (Place created)
Hard-paste porcelain with traces of oil paint
46 × 34 × 20 cm (18 1/8 × 13 3/8 × 7 7/8 in.)
Johann Gottlieb Kirchner produced the model for this life-size porcelain sculpture of a fox-looking a little guiltily around the chicken it is about to devour-as part of an extraordinary commission from Augustus the Strong, elector of Saxony and king of Poland, who envisioned a life-size porcelain menagerie for his Japanese Palace in Dresden. The Meissen Porcelain Manufactory had been operating for only twenty years when Augustus commissioned this series of porcelain animals to be rendered "in their natural sizes and colors." The production of porcelain models of this size had never been attempted before in Europe.
Some of the technical difficulties Kirchner encountered in fulfilling this commission are evident on this figure of a fox with a chicken. First, the large scale of the figure required a number of highly visible vent holes to prevent explosions in the kiln. Second, shrinkage during the firing process and strong downward pressure from the objects' own weight caused cracks of varying severity. Meissen craftsmen tried numerous ways to reduce cracking; though they were certainly very inventive, few methods worked. The cracks made a final firing with enamel colors impossible, since this would have shattered the already cracked figures. Some were painted in oil colors, which became dull and discolored. In most cases the paint was removed at a later date. Traces of paint can be seen inside the pricked ears of this fox. In many ways, the successful creation of this life-size fox with a chicken attests to the Meissen manufactory's diligent attempt to satisfy one of the richest and most powerful men of the time.