Whenever a dog found its way into the British court, its popularity also increased among the population. Queen Victoria made dachshunds and Pekingese dogs acceptable, but the place of honour was given to her greyhound Dash. She was equally fascinated by the impressive muscular build of the lightning-fast hunters and the French sculptor Pierre Jules Mêne. Both individually and in groups, he showed the elegance of these animals in bronze in several pieces from around the same time. From 1898, Nymphenburg's master workshops realised various of its designs in porcelain, including this delicate figurine of the greyhound.
Only a dachshund can wear such a stoic expression. Especially when it is a high-born one. The sculptress Wera von Bartels understood that when she immortalised this self-confident male in porcelain in 1906. The model for this masterfully executed sculpture was “Labori IInd of Bergsteig”, a prizewinning male dachshund, whose photo went round the world in the form of a postcard. With great sensitivity, the autodidact von Bartels, born in Munich, captured the hound’s physique and character – with all its strength, its loyalty, and its stubbornness. It is such a shame that this is her only model for Nymphenburg.
Not only have its extraordinary animal sculptures become famous, but also the underglazing technique used in the Nymphenburg master workshops. If we observe the silky coat of this 22.5-centimetre-tall Japanese Chin by Theodor Kärner, we can see why. All the shades in the coat are applied one by one in individual layers of colour from dark to light. When the figure is subsequently fired, the various shades blend into a homogeneous whole and reveal the living beauty of the dog’s back, face and paws.
Despite its small size, the Japanese Chin cuts a majestic figure. The modeller Theodor Kärner, born in 1884, was so fascinated by the Japanese breed that he made sculptures of the rare animals in a number of different situations. This figure, just ten centimetres tall, shows the grace of a Chin puppy playing. In this portrayal, vivid and natural design details, for instance on the ears or tuft of the tail, particularly come into their own. Like almost all of Kärner’s famous animal sculptures, this figure is designed in such a way that it is attractive from every angle.
Anyone with a fox terrier knows of the tireless energy that characterises this breed. They have to constantly observe and attentively follow everything in their environment. The small yet powerful frame underlines this agility. With his figure of the attentive “Niki” of 1913, the artist Willy Zügel from Munich succeeded in capturing a rare, yet highly interesting moment in the wiry terrier’s daily life. “With taut frame and intelligent expression” – the critics praised – this dog sculpture enters into direct dialogue with the observer.
A dog’s temperament and specific character traits generally become apparent when he is still very young. We could watch puppies discovering the world for hours. That is most probably what Theodor Kärner thought too, who worked at Nymphenburg from 1905 until 1918. This reclining pug embodies one of his favourite motifs: Portraying young dogs. He is elegantly resting one paw on top of the other, while his dreamy gaze is focused on something in his imagination.
Bully, as the French bulldog is affectionately called, combines in his compact size strength, elegance and alert behaviour. Typical of his breed are the upright bat-like ears, which, however, do not seem to have impressed the young artist Maria Theresia Ernst a great deal. When she was modelling this 17-centimetre-tall figurine under the guidance of her teacher Josef Wackerle, she held the animal in a moment of calm and relaxation. It is as though someone has just woken Bully up with a start. His eyes are trained alertly on the observer.
Be it bulldog, fox terrier or pug, the artists at Nymphenburg undoubtedly loved pedigrees. The internationally renowned artist Konrad Schmid was partial not to one, but nine different breeds of terrier. The success of animal figurines like “Grimm” was no coincidence. He studied meticulously at renowned breeders, travelling throughout Germany and even to Great Britain to see the highest-born living models for his dog sculptures. These sculptures were so lifelike that Schmid’s knowledge of anatomy was judged in the American specialist press to be “simply uncanny”.
Thanks to its friendly character and striking appearance, the French bulldog is an attractive companion. The fascination for this breed over time made them popular among the highest circles of the nobility. The artist Konrad Schmid also seems to have succumbed to this breed, for he portrays these elegant animals in various situations and stages of growth. This magnificent example of an alert French bulldog was made in 1928, modelled on an award-winning male belonging to breeder Dr. Hohwein, near Lake Starnberg, outside Munich.
Thanks to Konrad Schmid’s animal figurines, Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory became famous within a very short space of time while he was still alive. This was not least thanks to its true-to-life portrayal of the various breeds. Be it fox terrier or bulldog, Schmid always did his research at the dogs’ homes, i.e., the renowned breeders’ establishments in Germany and Great Britain. For this French bulldog, first presented in 1928, Schmid studied a litter of puppies belonging to the breeder Dr. Hohwein in Ebenhausen.
The artist Konrad Schmid modelled his figurines on award-winning pedigrees. He travelled the world to see them. He travelled to the most renowned dog breeders in Germany and Great Britain to realise his figures, such as this young French bulldog, with the help of plaster models, watercolour sketches and photos. Even today, this design from 1928 is still produced true to the original in the Manufactory’s master workshops.
There is one design that particularly stands out from among the numerous dog figurines created at Nymphenburg over the last 200 years, namely, Luise Terletzki-Scherf's pug. Barely eleven centimetres tall, he holds the observer with his cocked head, which was not, as with other dog sculptures, achieved using the underglazing technique. This charming four-legged friend is the only one to feature overglaze painting, applied freehand using paintbrushes in the Manufactory’s master workshops, as with other kinds of figurines.
In the White House, the “First Dog” is of course a member of the family. An honourable tradition, which would certainly not be amiss among German government politicians. For as we well know, dogs are very helpful in relieving people’s stress and aggression. Those who don’t fancy the constant care, walks and above all the training, can look to this splendid figure of an English bulldog. Konrad Schmid studied the breed’s mannerisms for seven months at various breeders in England. His studies culminated in 1929 in this and other characterful animals, which he designed for the Manufactory’s master workshops.
Whether smooth, curly, long or short-haired: It was the development of underglazing that actually enabled the characteristics associated with different breeds of dog to then take porcelain form in a really true-to-life fashion. Konrad Schmid made prolific use of the technique. The artist created nine different terrier breeds alone for the Nymphenburg master workshops. They included this 17-centimetre-tall smooth-haired fox terrier female, modelled after the British “Towyn Rose-Marie”. Schmid made a portrait of the lively dog on his study trip to various breeders in Great Britain in 1930. Its dog figurines alone made Nymphenburg famous throughout Britain within a very short space of time.
Being immortalised in porcelain by artists at the Manufactory is also a great honour for animals. Especially such young ones as this short-haired dachshund by Konrad Schmid. Designed in 1931, it was extremely popular, both nationally and internationally. This was due on the one hand to the dog’s unmistakeable characteristic expression, and on the other the true-to-life portrayal. The range of colours used in underglaze painting is already so extensive that specifically in the shading of animal figurines, the artists were able to create a unique tonal richness in the coat and feathers.
As a rule, the creation of animal figurines is preceded by months, if not years of intensive study. Yet it is certainly worth observing the animals both when they are at rest and moving, if, like Pierre Jules Mêne, you copy them with scientific precision. The French sculptor produced hundreds of animal figurines in bronze. He is considered a commensurate master of his trade. Based on a model he designed in 1850, circa 80 years later he created at Nymphenburg this group of wild dogs playing. This pair is a particular challenge for the master workshops, as the fragile legs have to be added one by one and carefully dried.