The present groups of an elephant and a rhinoceros, each bearing a Turkish sultan and mounted on stylish Louis XVI bases, are one of only five pair readily known.
The group of a Turkish sultan riding an elephant is one of the most appealing of its type and appears with regularity on the art market. See Hermann Jedding, Meissener Porzellan des 18. Jahrhunderts in Hamburger Privatbesitz, Exhibition Catalogue, Hamburg, 1982, p. 210, no. 221 and col. pl. XIII for the example of a sultan riding an elephant from a Hamburg collection, sold Christie's, London, 7 July 2003, lot 116. For another similar model in the Dresden Porzellansammlung, see Carl Albiker, Die Meissner Porzellantiere, Berlin, 1959, no. 255; and for two others in the Ansbach Residenz, see Rainer Rükert, Meissener Porzellan 1710-1810, Munich, 1966, nos. 1060 and 1061.
Models of the pendant group of a rhinoceros and rider are considerably rarer and more difficult to find. When they do appear, it tends to be as part of a pair. A pair similar to the present examples, from the collection of S.B. Joel and ormolu-mounted on rocaille bases, was sold at Christie's, London, 29 May 1935, lot 33. A second unmounted pair, formerly in the collection of Anthony and Yvonne Rothschild, was sold Christie's, London, 5 April 1982 and again at Sotheby's, London, 15 April, 1997, lot 88. A third pair is known in the Hermitage. That illustrated in Meissen Portrait Figures by Len and Yvonne Adams is a fourth.
Kändler's Taxa of March 1741 records: Einem grossen Elephanten; Reinicke's of November 1743: 1 Elephanten 9 Zoll hoch mit einer verzeiten Decke uberhanged, in Thon bossirt.
The factory records the group of an elephant and figure as form number 1165 and that of the rhinoceros and figure as form number 1692, indicating that the two models came into production in 1749 and 1752 respectively. One of the earliest documented sales must therefore be the group of un elephant de porcelaine de Saxe portant une figure recorded by Lazard Duvaux in his Livre-journal as sold to the duc de Bauvilliers 4 January 1752 for 216 livres.