The Porcelain Museum
OBJECTS & STORIES
FRIENDSHIP OR LOVE?
The chocolate cup and its saucer were painted with pansies around 1796 and already reveal themselves as a gift to a sweetheart. Or perhaps to a close friend? Pansies, in this case viola tricolor, the tricoloured violet, also called Dreyfaltigkeitsblume in German, stands in floral language for modest, reserved love. Once also known as a Denkblume, a flower of thoughts or memory, thus the French name pensées. Pensées, the thoughts, speak for themselves and are evident in the enigmatic depiction of the medallion on the front of the mug. Cupid himself sits on a seesaw, held aloft in suspension by a lady garlanded with flowers. However, her victory is set on a fragile base, the remains of an ancient column. Cupid's bow and arrow lie on the ground out of reach of the naughty god of love. Next to the lady, a medallion with a monogram MDG perhaps points to the recipient of this gift, a second wreath of flowers is held above it. A victory wreath? A banner spreads out below the scene, 'L'amitié l'emporte'. Friendship triumphs. In the background of the miniature painting executed in dreamy sepia, a volcanic eruption can be seen. Is more than friendship being given here after all?
The outcome remains a mystery of history. What is certain is that this ensemble was an individually composed commissioned work, the bearer of a delicate message. Whether it was the one longed for? In any case, one consolation remains. The hot chocolate that was drunk in such cups. Actually called a trembleuse, the cup stands stably in a slightly higher ring in the middle of the saucer. The purpose of this invention was to prevent the spilling of a sweet cup's contents by trembler, French for 'trembling'. Hot chocolate was often drunk in the morning, preferably in bed before getting up, or immediately afterwards in front of the toilette mirror. Getting ready took a long time and was shortened by entertaining company. A pour-proof chocolate cup was a commodité, one of those immensely practical and at the same time charming novelties of the 18th century.
Gliding over the glittering ice of the Danube was one of the very latest winter pleasures in 18th century Vienna, on palace ponds and arms of the Danube. Gallant "grinders" offered ladies their services in putting on the blades. Numerous publications described the art, pleasure and etiquette of skating, as well as the health benefits, but also the divine feeling of lightness and freedom. The porcelain modellers of the imperial manufactory incorporated these topical themes into their designs. Allegories of winter often depict courtly couples or individual strollers with ice skates.
When it was founded in 1923, the Augarten Porcelain Manufactory intended to continue the legacy of the imperial manufactory in addition to promoting contemporary art. Figure models from the 18th century, such as the delicate skater with her warming muff, were reproduced with great success. The painting of the figure is based on Rococo models, such as the plain monochrome, light purple of the overdress with fur trimming and the small mouth painted in iron red. The lady seems to be just venturing her first moves on the ice-blue plinth, as the subtle sweep of her posture depicts.
Ice skater, 1924
Model no. 1002, h. 15 cm
Photo: Bettina Fischer, 2020
The Augarten porcelain manufactory's original factory book from 1924 mentions a whole series of customers in whose order lists the figure of the "Skater" appears.
At that time, the Vienna Ice Skating Club (Eislaufverein) operated the largest artificial ice rink in the world, where almost 10,000 members indulged in the popular sport, including quite a few internationally known stars of ice dancing. Herma Planck-Szabó (1902-1986) was one of them, she was already wearing the new "American" ice skates that made daring figures possible. The model of the unpainted ice dancer, designed by Mathilde Jaksch around 1930, reflects the new self-confidence of the women of her time, who now practised all outdoor sports with the greatest success and pleasure.
Ice dancer, c. 1930
Design: Mathilde Jaksch (1899-?)
Model no.1703, h. 19 cm
Historical photograph, c. 1930