Lot Content

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
A Meissen monkey-band (Affenkapelle)
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price plus bu… Read more
A Meissen monkey-band (Affenkapelle)


A Meissen monkey-band (Affenkapelle)
Circa 1755 and 1756, some with blue crossed swords marks
Each modelled by J.J. Kändler as male or female monkeys in brightly-coloured clothes supported by tree-stumps on shaped circular scroll-moulded mound bases enriched in gilding and applied with coloured flowers and foliage, comprising:

A conductor, his arms outstretched, in powdered-wig and blue frock-coat (arms broken at shoulders and restored, restoration to right leg and foot and right hand, left hand with thumb and index finger partly lacking, slight restoration to hem of frock-coat and waistcoat), blue crossed swords mark at back, 17¼ in. (18.5 cm.) high

A music-stand, supported on a double gilt scroll-moulded support on a stepped square base, the score inscribed Aria (broken through lower part and restored), 3¼ in. (8.3 cm.) high

A guitarist, in a plumed hat and pink jacket with a white neck-ruff (restoration to top, plume and brim of hat, left hand, right wrist and cuff, end of instrument and left foot), blue crossed swords mark at back, 5 1/8 in. (15 cm.) high

A trumpeter, in powdered-wig, yellow frock-coat and breeches and blue and white striped waistcoat (restoration to instrument, slight chips to cuffs and minute chip to edge of frock-coat), blue crossed swords and dot mark, incised 5, 5 3/8 in. (13.5 cm.) high

Another, in powdered-wig, pale-pink frock-coat and turquoise waistcoat (restoration to instrument, left arm at shoulder and both cuffs, right side of frock-coat near the hem and left inside edge of frock-coat and to toe of right foot), blue crossed swords mark at back, 5½ in. (14 cm.) high

A figure playing the fife and tabour, in powdered-wig tied en queue, black tricorn hat, short yellow jacket, his tabour over his left arm (restoration to hat and through neck, left arm, straps of tabour and to drumstick in right hand, fife lacking from left hand, queue chipped and restored), blue crossed swords mark to base and incised 9., 5 5/8 in. (14.4 cm.) high

A violinist, in black tricorn hat, yellow frock-coat and puce waistcoat (restoration to hat, left hand, head of instrument, bow restored and repaired), blue crossed swords mark at back, 5½ in. (13.4 cm.) high

A French-horn player, in black tricorn hat, pink frock-coat and turquoise waistcoat (instrument broken from arm and hand and restuck with associated minor chipping and restoration, restored chip to left edge of frock-coat, small chips to bows), 6 in. (15.2 cm.) high

A bassoonist, in plumed cap, pink frock-coat and pale-yellow waistcoat (restoration to plume, instrument, and left and right cuff), blue crossed swords mark and dot and painter's mark of a puce triangle, 5 3/8 in. (13.7 cm.) high

An oboe-player, in powdered-wig, pink frock-coat and yellow waistcoat (restoration to wig, instrument, tip of tail, left leg, left foot, right second toe and right hem of frock-coat), blue crossed swords mark at back, 5 3/8 in. (13.7 cm.) high

Another, in powdered-wig, green frock-caot and pale-yellow waistcoat (restoration to instrument, chips to fingers of left hand, to bottom edge of frock-coat and waistcoat, tip of sword lacking), 5¼ in. (13.4 cm.) high

A drummer, in short powdered-wig, black tricorn hat, turquoise frock-coat, pink waistcoat and bright-yellow breeches (restoration to hat, right drumstick lacking and left repaired, slight chip to underside of base, restoration to tips of right toes), 5 7/8 in. (15 cm.) high

A drum-carrier, in plumed turquoise cap, white shirt and pale-yellow breeches, carrying two gilt-fringed puce drums over his back (chip to plume, end of straps, small chip to third toe of right foot and to leaf on base, end of tail lacking), blue crossed swords mark, 5 1/8 in. (13 cm.) high

An organist, in powdered-wig, pale-pink frock-coat and yellow waistcoat, seated astride another monkey supporting the keyboard and music and providing the wind for the instrument from its mouth, supported by a central tree-stump on an oval base (restoration to left side of his frock-coat, to wrists, to right leg through ankle and to left leg below the knee, chips to legs of organ, chip to edge of keyboard, small chip to edge of left sleeve, to left little toe and to edge of base, end of tail lacking, restoration to mouthpiece, restored firing crack to base), blue crossed swords mark, 5¼ in. (13.3 cm.) high

A hurdy-gurdy player, the female monkey in white lace-cap and long pink dress with blue ribbons, the scroll-moulded base enriched in puce (restoration to cap, chips to ribbons, restoration to head of instrument, small chip to dress), 5½ in. (14 cm.) high

A songstress, seated in white lace-cap tied with blue straps and ribbon, turquoise-lined yellow dress and pink underskirt, with her score on her lap (chips to bonnet, ribbons and left cuff, right arm restored through shoulder and left through elbow, slight chip to back of dress, restoration to score, feet and hem of skirt, slight chip to base), blue crossed swords mark at back, Pressnummer 15., 5 1/8 in. (13 cm.) high
(some minor chippping to foliage throughout) (16)
Anon., sale Galerie Jürg Stuker, Berne, 29th November 1973, lot 3263
Special Notice

VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price plus buyer's premium.

Lot Essay

The Meissen monkey band, or 'Affenkapelle', was one of the later achievements of J.J. Kändler and one that has the most captured the public imagination. The workbooks for the period in which the figures of monkey-musicians were conceived and first produced are missing. However, from external evidence it is known that they were available for sale by 1753. In December of that year, Lazare Duvaux, the Paris marchand-mercier, supplied 'Mme la Marquise de Pompadour... Dix neuf figures de Saxe formant un concert de singes, avec les instruments & attributs, a 23l., 437 un pupitre même porcelaine, 6l'.

It is clear from the factory records of the early 1760's that the series continued to be worked on and 'corrigiert' by Peter Reinicke.

Tradition has always suggested that they were devised as a caricature of Count Brühl's orchestra. As Robert Charleston states in his seminal entry in the Waddesdon Manor Catalogue (Meissen and Oriental Porcelain [Fribourg, 1971], no.63), the actual inspiration would appear to have come from France where 'singeries' were aleady popular. In several instances, as is the case at Waddesdon, Meissen Affenkapelle were mounted in ormolu on musical clocks. This was by no means the first instance of Paris dictating to Meissen what it thought the factory should create. As Duvaux and Mme. de Pompadour were involved in the earliest recorded acquisition of these figures, it is tempting to wonder whether the idea came from one of them.

There would seem to be no precise number of members of the monkey orchestra. Charleston, ibid. (Fribourg, 1971), p. 194, lists the composition of eleven such series. None of them are made up of the same number of musicians. The Waddesdon set lacks, for instance a Cunductor, Violinist, Flautist and Hurdy-Gurdy player. There were four different models of songstress. Very few series of these figures survive outside permanent collections.


View All
View All