A Meissen white model of a Great Bustard (Otis tarda), 1732, attributed to Johann Gottlieb Kirchner, incised initials AS to the underside of the beak for Andreas Schiefer, 33 in. (83.8 cm.) high.

That rare bird

The only known example of a Meissen great bustard still in private hands is a highlight of The Exceptional Sale 2016

This extraordinary Meissen model of a great bustard is one of only six delivered in the early 1730s to Augustus II the Strong, King of Poland, for his porcelain menagerie at the Japanese Palace in Dresden. Only five examples of this model are extant, four of which are now in museum collections. This is the only known example still in private hands.

Augustus II the Strong wanted his own factory at Meissen, near Dresden, to surpass the quality of porcelain from the Far East. His ambition reached its zenith with the creation of these near life-size porcelain animals and birds. Models of this size had never before been attempted; the firing cracks on all of the surviving pieces testify to the technological limitations of the period.

This example is among the rarest of the 28 varieties of bird model created for the Japanese Palace by the Meissen Modellmeister Johann Gottlieb Kirchner. The menagerie was a central part of Augustus’s plan for a porcelain palace, which would house his extensive collection of Far Eastern porcelain and showcase the virtuosity of the Meissen modellers.

Today these porcelain animals and birds are considered among the greatest sculptural achievements in the history of European porcelain.