Bust of the Court Jester Gottfried Schmiedel
Schmiedel, Johann Gottfried (1706-1775) | Person(s) shown
Kaendler, Johann Joachim (1706-1775) | Modeller
Fools and jesters have always been part of court life. They could be bolder and cheekier than anyone else – even to the king. And they could use this freedom to voice some unpleasant truths. Since their job was to entertain court society, they told jokes, juggled, and showed off with card or conjuring tricks. Such magic tricks included, for instance, court jester Joseph Fröhlich finding mice in the pockets and even the mouth of his fellow jester Gottfried Schmiedel.
This is just one of the many anecdotes about Schmiedel and Fröhlich, and gives you a taste of how they entertained the court.
“In February 1740, their majesties, together with the Princesses Maria, Anna and Josepha, some foreign emissaries and high-ranking persons, wished to arrange a festive sleigh ride from Dresden to the Moritzburg Palace. The royal company travelled in twenty-four light and fast sleighs. (...) The king sat with his consort in one sleigh, while the ministers and noblemen each travelled with one of the ladies, decided by drawing lots. By chance, only one young lady, the young Countess Friesen – far from the ugliest lady at court – was left without a gentleman to accompany her. She travelled alone in her sleigh, dressed in a blue velvet cloak trimmed with wolfskin and with a little sable beret on her head. Joseph Fröhlich’s sleigh was decorated with a life-size figure of Bacchus. (...) At midday in Moritzburg Palace, the company dined and drank heartily. In the course of the meal, Joseph Fröhlich announced he was going to steal a kiss on the way back from the most beautiful lady-in-waiting at the court – and he bet five thaler with Schmiedel he would succeed. (…) On their return journey, Fröhlich took the lead in his Bacchus sleigh, and had soon hurried ahead out of sight. At a crossroads, he stopped and hid behind a thicket of pines. The beautiful Countess Friesen was again travelling without a gentleman companion. As her sleigh approached the crossroads, Fröhlich leapt onto the sleigh’s runners (...). He embraced her gallantly and tried to press his lips to hers... but abruptly stopped, horrified! He was kissing a moustache! Crafty Schmiedel had borrowed the Countess’s cloak and beret, and taken a mask to disguise his male face – and now, much to the court’s delight and Fröhlich’s vexation, Schmiedel had won the bet.”
Kändler immortalised this scene in a porcelain group. Today, an example of the work is in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. You can find an image of it under ‘Other Media’.
- Material & Technique
- Porcelain, unpainted
- Meissen, June 1739
- Inventory number
- PE 248