Death of Saint Francis Xavier
Kaendler, Johann Joachim (1706-1775) | Modeller
This figural group from 1738 – 1740 is undoubtedly one of Kaendler’s masterpieces. Based on a print of a painting by Italian artist Carlo Maratti, the scene shows the death of Jesuit missionary and Saint Francis Xavier. Kaendler made four copies of this work. This is the only one to survive, though even this was badly damaged. But with the original moulds from Meissen, considerable patience and expertise, our restorers have managed to repair and restore this quite remarkable work of art.
For a long time, Kändler’s fascinating porcelain work was in such poor condition that it slumbered unseen in the Dresden Porcelain Collection’s storage facility. The kneeling figure at the front left was lost entirely, and there were many other minor flaws, from missing arms, fingers or feet to the soldier’s missing pike. One of the tree trunks supporting the hut’s roof had already been renewed in the nineteenth century – just like the boy at the far right carrying a bundle of wood.
In the 1980s, the entire work was fully restored – a major undertaking. Fortunately, the set of moulds from Kändler’s work in the Meissen Porcelain Manufactory has survived. The set comprises over 200 individual moulds. In most cases, the two restorers could find the moulds for the missing pieces, and so reproduce the parts exactly. Even in Kändler’s days, these moulds were used to make a total of four porcelain copies of this death scene. However, only the copy here in Dresden has survived more or less intact.
The restoration not only repaired damage to the porcelain itself, but also renewed the wooden base on which the piece is mounted. Moreover, the internal metal construction supporting the four tree trunks and the gloriole of clouds and angels also had to be restored. This metal construction is the secret of Kändler’s bold composition, since without this support the statics of his design would have been impossible.
- Material & Technique
- Porcelain, unpainted
- Meissen, c. 1738/40
- Inventory number
- PE 424