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.
Max Esser (German, Barth 1885–1945 Berlin)
Max Esser attended the institute of the Museum of Applied Arts in Berlin and the Berlin Art Academy, where he studied with the animal sculptor August Gaul, whose son-in-law he later became. From 1906 Esser exhibited regularly at the Great Berlin Art Exhibitions. From 1908 he was an employee in the Schwarzburger workshops for porcelain in Unterweißbach. From 1920 he lived in Meissen, where he worked from 1920 to 1931 at the Meissen Porcelain factory, from 1924 as the director of the art studio. Later he made porcelain models for Hutschenreuther, the Royal Porcelain Manufactory Berlin KPM and Rosenthal.
At the World Exhibition in Paris in 1937, his 1934 Sea otter was awarded a Grand Prix.