The present birds are related to the life-size models of parrots initially conceived for the menagerie of porcelain animals made for Augustus the Strong's Japanese Palace. Kändler first mentions a green woodpecker in his work records of February 1733: "Im Monath Febrarii 1733 Sind an Neuen Modellen gefertiget Worden folgende... Ein GrünSpecht, Kändler [In the month of February 1733 the following new models were completed... a green woodpecker, Kändler]."
The following year, he notes: "Im Monath Martio 1734 sind auf hiesiger Königl. Pohl. und Churfürstl. Sächss. Porcellain Fabrique an Nuuen Modellen gefertiget worden... Einen Grünspecht auch in Lebens Grösse und ruhet auf Einem verzierten Postament, Johann Joachim Kändler [In the month of March 1734 new models were finished at the Royal Polish and Electoral Saxon Porcelain Factory... a green woodpecker also life-sized and resting on an adorned base, Johann Joachim Kändler].
Seven of the life-size birds were delivered to the Japanese Palace in 1734, and another two in March 1736. As of 1779, six birds, all on white bases and all with manufacturing flaws, were retained in the royal collection where they remained until after World War I. Two were sold at auction in 1919. Acquired by Ole Olsen, they were again sold at auction last year [Sotheby's, London, ...]. Two were sold in the second of the Saxon Royal Collection auctions, held at Leple's in 1920. Two are still in the Porzellan Sammlung, Dresden.
For the definitive discussion of extraordinary porcelain menagerie ordered by Augustus the Strong, and its place in the overall scheme of the Japanese Palace in Dresden, see Samuel Wittwer, Die Galerie der Meissener Tiere. Die Menagerie Augusts des Starken für das Japanische Palais in Dresden, Schriftenreihe der Gesellschaft der Karamikfreunde e.V., Bd.I, Hirmer Verlag, Munich 2004.
The present pair are examples of the slightly smaller version of the model produced after the Japanese Palace menagerie project was abandoned. Other such examples were sold at Christie's in London [5 December 1983, lot 147 and 7 October 1996, lot 471]. A single bird was sold by Sotheby's in Geneva [10 May 1988, lot 31]. See Rainer Rückert, Meissener Porzellan, Munich, 1966, no. 1104 for the example from the collection of Dr. Ernst Schneider now at Schloss Lusteim and described as dating to the 1740's.