Henry Arnhold’s Meissen Palace: Celebrating a Collector

porcelain birdcage, blue and white

Exhibition Honors Late Collector and Great Patron of the Arts

This fall, The Frick Collection presents Henry Arnhold’s Meissen Palace, an exhibition of works from the famed European porcelain manufactory along with several Asian examples that inspired such wares. The pieces are drawn from the collection of the late Henry H. Arnhold (1921–2018), whose foundation made a promised gift of more than 100 objects to the institution nearly a decade ago and supported the creation of the Portico Gallery, where the exhibition will be shown. Organized by Charlotte Vignon, the Frick’s Curator of Decorative Arts, the show offers a fresh take on this esteemed collection, transforming the gallery into an eighteenth-century “porcelain room,” and grouping the works on view by color. This type of installation emulates a historic approach and allows visitors to experience these fragile, luxurious objects in much the same way one would have in eighteenth-century Europe.

Vignon adds, “In looking a new at these wondrous pieces given to the Frick by the late Henry Arnhold, I have considered his attraction to them alongside the fascination they held for the most famous patron of such objects, Augustus II (1670–1733), king of Poland and elector of Saxony. Reflecting on the ways both men lived with their collections, I wanted to explore the idea that Arnhold was creating his own palace of porcelain. Indeed, he acquired many objects commissioned by Augustus, which we are including in the exhibition. We hope visitors to the show enjoy looking at these whimsical works through the eyes of both enthusiasts.” An illustrated booklet featuring installation views and a conversation with members of the Arnhold family will be available in mid-November.

About the Installation

In the eighteenth century, ceramic ware of diverse forms, techniques, and origins was often exhibited in extravagant spaces called “porcelain rooms,” and frequently arranged by their color. This type of display was famously adopted by Augustus II for his small pleasure palace in Dresden, called the Japanisches Palais (Japanese Palace). The most important porcelain collector of his time, Augustus was said to have been afflicted by a maladie de porcelaine (porcelain fever). By 1719, he had amassed more than twenty thousand pieces of Chinese and Japanese porcelain, which he showcased in the Japanese Palace. In 1729, the palace was rebuilt and expanded to highlight specially commissioned porcelain from the Meissen Royal Porcelain Manufactory, founded by Augustus in 1710. The manufactory was the first of its kind in Europe.

About Meissen Porcelain and the Arnhold Collection

Long admired for their masterfully modeled shapes and gemlike glazes, Meissen porcelain offers a window into the early years of manufacturing porcelain in the West and celebrates a fascinating chapter in the history of the ceramic medium. Although the formula for manufacturing true porcelain had been developed in China by the sixth century, it remained shrouded in mystery in the West until its discovery in 1708 under the patronage of Augustus II. Early Meissen porcelain was at the forefront of the European ceramic industry until the ascendency of the Royal Sèvres Manufactory in France in the 1750s.

The Arnhold Collection, one of the greatest private holdings of Meissen porcelain assembled in the twentieth century, was formed in Dresden between 1926 and 1935 by Lisa Arnhold (1890–1972) and Heinrich Arnhold (1885–1935), with a focus on tablewares and vases and pieces of royal or noteworthy provenance. The Arnhold Collection came to America with Lisa Arnhold and her family at the start of World War II. Lisa and Heinrich’s son, Henry, extended the size and scope of the collection, sometimes following his parents’ tastes and preferences, sometimes departing from tradition with the acquisition of Meissen with underglaze blue decoration, figures and groups, and mounted objects.

This will be the fourth presentation to focus on this important collection following Porcelain, No Simple Matter: Arlene Shechet and the Arnhold Collection (2016), White Gold: Highlights from the Arnhold Collection of Meissen Porcelain (2011) and The Arnhold Collection of Meissen Porcelain, 1710–50 (2008). The Portico Gallery’s architectural transformation into an exhibition space was underwritten by Arnhold in 2011.

This exhibition is made possible by The Arnhold Family in honor of Henry H. Arnhold.

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