The origin of Meissen figures
The idea for making small figures in porcelain came from the sugar ornaments seen on fashionable dining tables all over Europe at the beginning of the 18th century. The sugar would be pressed into a mould to form figures, temples, gates, carriages, gardens, and many other forms. These were very expensive and, of course, ephemeral, since they could be eaten
The arrival of porcelain made these figures more permanent, and more valuable. Many porcelain figures — from those in pastoral scenes to depictions of street traders — were in fact designed as table decorations, and not made to sit in cabinets as they do today.
The figures could be satirical, mythological or allegorical, and were designed to convey information about their owners — their level of scholarship, their military prowess, or even their sense of humour.
August Gaul ( 1869 – 1922 )
August Gaul was a founding member of the Berlin Secession movement. He studied at the Berlin art school and in Rome. His close friendship with art dealers Bruno and Paul Cassirer enabled the artist to work relatively free of financial concerns, producing his sculptures directly for the art market rather than commissions for specific clients.
Gaul produced a wide range of different animals although lions and bears as well as penguins and ducks seem to come to mind when first thinking of his sculptures. Gaul modelled mammals as well as birds, wild as well as domestic animals, as single figures or small groups, on a small scale as well as life-size. Regardless of whether he depicted them in movement or still, he always captured the characteristic essence of each beast.