Monkey with Snuff Box (detail), Meissen Porcelain, modelled by Johann Joachim Kändler, circa 1732, Est. £200,000-400,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Sotheby’s London announced that the highlight of the Meissen section from the Collection of Sir Gawaine and Lady Baillie Sale on May 1st 2013, is an exceptionally rare and early porcelain monkey c.1732, modelled by the innovative sculptor Johann Joachim Kändler. Estimated at £200,000-400,000, the finely modelled monkey is characteristic of Kändler’s earliest large-scale animal works, which appear only rarely at auction. Depicted taking snuff, the monkey was commissioned by Augustus II, the Strong, Prince Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, and displayed in his porcelain menagerie at the famous Japanese Palace in Dresden. Recorded in the Palace inventories of 1770 and 1779, it was most likely sold during the second half of the 19th century and at some point acquired by Sir Jacob Astley, 6th B.t, later 16th Lord Hastings (1797 – 1859), one of the foremost 19th century Meissen collectors. Olive, Lady Baillie, purchased the figure at Sotheby’s in London in 1947 for her home in Nassau, Bahamas. The monkey, which was passed to her son, Sir Gawaine, in the 1960s, its illustrious provenance becoming forgotten and the fine details of its modelling obscured by later restoration, has been recently authenticated by the leading Meissen authority, Professor Ulrich Pietsch, as an original 1732 work. Presently, only two other examples are known – one in the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the other in the Dresden State Art Collections. 

Henry House, Sotheby’s Senior Director and Head of Furniture and Decorative Arts department said: “This is a thrilling discovery. Johann Joachim Kändler was court sculptor to Augustus the Strong and perhaps the most important in the evolution of European porcelain. Olive, Lady Baillie, grand-daughter of the great William Whitney, displayed the monkey in her dining room in the Bahamas. It was latterly believed to date from the 19th century, but its remarkable story and royal provenance lay hidden beneath restoration work, which once removed revealed it as a treasure from Augustus the Strong’s fantastic menagerie of porcelain beasts.

Professor Ulrich Pietsch explained: “In the [porcelain] paste one finds some dark ash dots from the kiln and a lot of fire cracks, typical of the big animals of Augustus the Strong. To avoid those cracks, the Meissen workers put a lot of holes into the body to let the hot air emanate during firing. Each of the pieces has these holes at the same place: two in the ears, two in the trunk on which monkey is sitting and one in the belt. There is no doubt from the art historical standpoint, that the monkey of the Baillie Collection is genuine Meissen from c.1732 and was then part of the Royal Collection of Augustus II in the Japanese Palace of Dresden.” 


The Meissen Collection of Sir Gawaine and Lady Baillie represents one of the most extensive groups of 18th century Meissen animals and birds ever to appear at auction. Comprising over 140 different figures, almost all of which were created at Meissen during the 1730s and 1740s by the legendary Johann Joachim Kändler, the collection was started in the 1930s by the Anglo-American heiress Olive, Lady Baillie (grand-daughter of William Whitney), who bought many of the pieces for her home, Leeds Castle in Kent and Lowndes House, London. She passed her love for Meissen on to her son, Sir Gawaine Baillie, Bt., who with his wife Margot, built it into one of the most extensive Meissen menageries in private hands.

With estimates ranging from £400 - £400,000 the works will be offered together with a selection of furniture and decorations from the West Sussex House designed by Sir Gawaine and Lady Baillie, their home for over 40 years. In total, the sale is expected to achieve in excess of £1.8 million.


Monkey with Snuff Box, Meissen Porcelain, modelled by Johann Joachim Kändler, circa 1732, Est. £200,000-400,000. Photo: Sotheby's.