Large Meissen porcelain 'Elements' ewer emblematic of water

By Meissen Porcelain Manufactory (German, founded 1710)


Boasting exceptional detail, this Meissen jug is a true narrative piece surrounding the theme of water that draws upon classical iconography.


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This exquisite Meissen ewer is part of a set that represents the Four Elements: Earth, Air, Water and Fire. Impressive in both size and artistry, they are among the most famous and spectacular examples of Meissen porcelain ever made. This jug, which is emblematic of water, wows with its quality and execution, not just a utile object but an incredible piece of artwork in its own right.

The ewer is of flattened baluster form, with a flared circular base decorated with spouting dolphins amongst bulrushes. The spout is also flared and is crafted to resemble an open conch shell which spirals in on itself at the apex. The conch design is skilfully painted in gradient hues of purple and brown, shimmering with a gloss finish to evoke the smoothness of the shell. The handle of the jug is particularly impressive; S-scroll shaped and formed from aquatic leaves tied together with red ribbon. The handle is surmounted by a winged putto who watches the scene below as his cape flies in the wind.

The highlight of the ewer is undoubtedly the main body, which is carefully adorned with a relief naval scene that depicts a fleet of warships amongst waves. The ships dart between the decorative porcelain additions: four galloping hippocampi speed through the waves followed by a nude mermaid emerging from the water, and another fleeting tail ahead suggests that the viewer might have just missed another mermaid disappearing to the depths below. From above, Neptune, the Roman god of water and the sea, watches the scene unfold from a shell chariot, holding his pitchfork signifier. The upper neck is decorated with a painted insect design.

The underside of the jug is marked with the Meissen signature of crossed swords mark in blue, the model number 320 incised, and the number 7 painted in iron-red pigment.

The ewer is designed after the famous 1741 model by Johann Joachim Kändler (1706 –1775), a German sculptor who became one of the most important modellers of the Meissen porcelain manufactory. He worked at Meissen for over 40 years, from 1731 until his death in 1775. Examples of the thousands of pieces modelled by Kändler can be seen in many of the world’s most highly prestigious museums.

This sensational ewer exemplifies why Meissen are reputed as a specialist producer of exceptional and unique porcelain wares. With its fantastic design and exceptional artistry, this ewer would complement any antique collection.


Artist / Maker
By Meissen Porcelain Manufactory (German, founded 1710)
Country of Origin
Date of Manufacture
19th Century
19th Century
Animal / Animalier, Classical, Equestrian / Horses, Marine / Seascape, Meissen


61 cm / 24 inches
36 cm / 14.2 inches
23 cm / 9.1 inches


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