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The porcelain embellishment of the famed palace in Dresden for Augustus the Strong was a grandiose and ultimately uncompleted project that occupied a large slice of the Meissen factory’s production time from 1725-1740, with over 35,000 pieces ordered.

The animal gallery was just one of a whole enfilade of rooms decorated in different colours and themes. It featured both native and exotic specimens and mythical beasts, and the 1733 inventory listed 296 animals and as many birds.

The bulk of the suviving pieces are now contained in the Zwinger in Dresden and, although duplicate models were exchanged with museums, examples such as these seldom come on the open market.

Longleat possessed ten of these animals, including duplicates of all the examples here, and they are thought to have entered Longleat via the Baring family, one of whom, Harriet Baring, married the 3rd Marquess.

Christie’s specialist Paul Tippett had given these estimates of varying size, based on a combination of different factors: the rarity of the model’s appearance on the market, the appeal of the subject and the success of the modelling. Top marks at £400,000-600,000 were awarded to the fox (above right); followed by £300,000-400,000 for the turkey (right, middle). The vultures were amongst Kandler’s earliest essays in working with porcelain and, as such, had a slightly stiffer appearance. The taller of the two (below, right) was estimated at £250,000-350,000 and the shorter at £150,000-200,000; the latter also had some traces of its original cold painting that Paul Tippett felt might not prove as aesthetically appealing as its all-white companions.

In the event, the final pecking order more or less followed these predictions, albeit at much more elevated levels, as they were contested by three principal bidders: London dealer Adrian Sassoon, who was bidding for the Getty Museum; Galerie Neuse of Bremen, plus a bidder on Paul Tippett’s telephone. Adrian Sassoon secured the fox at £950,000 and the turkey at £750,000 against bidding from Neuse, who successfully outbid the telephone to carry off the two vulture models at £340,000 and £450,000. The prices were high, but they reflect not only the rarity of the opportunity to purchase, but also the nature of the pieces themselves, which are more pieces of porcelain sculpture than china ornaments.