Meissen Fountain Restoration Project
Funder: Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A)
The Meissen Fountain Restoration Project involved the re-creation of missing or damaged elements of a porcelain table fountain made by Meissen in the eighteen century. This table fountain, the largest assemblage of its kind in existence, was modelled by Johann Joachim Kändler for Count von Brűhl, Prime Minister of Saxony and Director of the Meissen factory. The baroque design of the table fountain was based on the Neptune Fountain in the gardens of von Brűhl’s summer palace in Dresden. In the eighteenth century the table fountain was used as a centrepiece at state dinners:
‘We sat down at one table two hundred and six People (twas at Count Brühl's) … In the middle of the Table was the Fountain… at least eight foot high, which ran all the while with Rose-water…’
(From a letter dated 4 February 1748, written by Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, British envoy at the Dresden court)
Professor Martin Smith and Dr Steve Brown from the RCA worked with a curatorial team from the V&A led by Reino Liefkes, Senior Curator and Head of Ceramics and Glass. The restoration utilised research undertaken by Liefkes that determined the original layout of the table fountain. Digital scans were taken of the existing surviving and damaged elements owned by the V&A, porcelain objects in the Dresden Porcelain Museum made using the same moulds as the table fountain, and scans of the Neptune fountain in Dresden. Using this data, Professor Smith and Dr Brown recreated the pieces that were missing or it was decided were too damaged to restore. The new pieces were made in porcelain using a combination of digital scanning and model making and traditional ceramic casting and hand-modelling techniques.
In 2015 the restored table fountain was installed in a four-metre-wide space in the V&A’s new Europe 1600–1800 Galleries, along with a video showing the restoration process.
RCA News (2014) Meissen Fountain Remodelled and Restored by RCA Ceramics & Glass Staff, 15 July 2015. Available here
V&A - Winners of the Nigel Williams Prize for Ceramics Conservation: in 2016 the team won the prestigious Nigel Williams Prize for Ceramics Conservation for their work on the Conservation and Reconstruction of the Meissen Fountain. The judging panel reflected that the project was 'innovative and ground breaking, utilising new technologies and showing good collaborative team work, with conservation standards and ethics at the forefront of decision making'.
Brown, Steven (2014), ‘The Meissen Fountain Project: Restoration in the age of digital reproduction’, Making Futures Journal, Vol 3, ISSN 2042–1664. Available here
Work from the project will be exhibited in A World of Fragile Parts (curated by the V&A), La Biennale di Venezia, 28 May – 27 November 2016.
Arkell, Roland (2014), '18th century Meissen revived via 21st century technology', Antiques Trade Gazette, 18 January 2014. Available here
Ramakers, Hanneke and Jordan, Fi (2014) ‘The Meissen Fountain: re-presenting porcelain on a grand scale’, Conservation Journal, Autumn 2014 Issue 62. Available here
Liefkes, Reino (2016) ‘Pieces of a porcelain puzzle’, Ceramic Review, Jan/Feb 2016, Issue 277, p18-19. Available here (subscription)
Page authors: Dr Peter Oakley, Tara Stebnicky & Arantxa Echarte