Measuring almost two feet in height, this life-size turkey was made 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. Though he had already amassed an unrivaled collection of Chinese and Japanese porcelain, Augustus wanted these new figures to be produced by his own factory at Meissen. When Augustus placed the order for these porcelain animals, the Meissen factory was still of very limited experience, having only discovered the formula for hard-paste porcelain about twenty years prior. The figure was modeled by Johan Joachim Kändler, a sculptor who was hired by the manufactory in 1731 to assist with the commission for the animals
Producing such large figures presented a number of challenges for Kändler and the Meissen craftsmen. The clay's thickness and weight and uneven shrinking frequently caused the animals to crack and collapse in the kiln. This turkey, along with all other sculptures for Augustus, was originally meant to be painted in the animal's natural colors; however, doing so proved technically impossible. Despite these difficulties, the figures stand as important examples of an early and experimental aspect of ceramic art.