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THE HÖCHST AND FÜRSTENBERG COMMEDIA DELL'ARTE FIGURES
Simon Feilner is known to be the modeller of the great Fürstenberg Commedia series which rivals the slightly earlier series made at Höchst. The graphic sources for the Fürstenberg series, the series of Comedy prints by Jacob Wolrab published in Nuremberg in 1722, were identified and published by Gunther Hansen, Formen der Comedia dell'Arte in Deutschland (1984).
But it is still unknown who the modeller of the Höchst Commedia series was. Feilner is thought to have worked at Höchst very briefly at some point between 1751 and 1752 before going to Fürstenberg in 1753, and as the Commedy figures from both factories bear similarities, and follow each other so closely in date, it has been thought that Feilner could have been the modeller. Opinion has been divided, as discussed by Robert Schmidt, Early European Porcelain as Collected by Otto Blohm (Munich, 1953), pp. 123-125, but a convincing argument was put forward by Horst Reber in the Pflueger Catalogue, see Hugo Morley-Fletcher, 'Early European Porcelain & Faience as collected by Kiyi and Edward Pflueger' Catalogue (London, 1993), pp. 100-111.
Reber discusses the differences between the Höchst and Fürstenberg series of Comedy figures, and points out that although similar, the modelling of the figures themselves is different. The features of the Fürstenberg figures are more elongated, and they bear a closer relationship with the engraved sources than the Höchst figures. The All the figures in the Höchst series (which consists of 14 figures), are on plinths, which evokes garden statuary, whereas the figures in the Fürstenberg series (now generally accepted to be 16), are all on mound bases.
Reber argues that this difference suggests that the extremely rare Höchst series was a specific commission. Although the identity of the patron is unknown, he suggests Johann Friedrich von Ostein, the Elector of Mainz as a very probable candidate. He draws attention to the Comedy parterre garden at the Schönborn Palais, Vienna, which once had very similar stone Comedy figures on stone plinths, and that the Elector of Mainz was the nephew of Friedrich Carl von Schönborn, who built the Schönborn Palace in Vienna. Reber suggests that the Elector could have ordered these figures, which were essentially smaller versions of the Viennese stone sculptures, either for himself or as a gift for his sister, as a memento of their uncle's home.
Reber finally argues that the series was almost certainly modelled by Johann Christoph Ludwig von Lücke (1703-1780), an itinerant sculptor who worked in England, Holland and France and became the Court Sculptor at Dresden before becoming the Modellmeister at the Vienna factory. Lücke would have been familiar with the stone figures at Schönborn, and it is very probable that he came to Höchst to model the Comedy series at the request of the Elector of Mainz. His presence at Höchst is confirmed by a pair of Höchst figures signed by him (in the Historisches Museum, Frankfurt).