This year I received the Regina Brown Undergraduate Fellowship from NCECA. I used this fellowship to go on a research trip to Europe. I visited the Paris Natural History museum to study the prehistoric mammals that they have in their collection. These skeletons have helped me to better understand the anatomy and real scale of the animals I have been sculpting. Drawing the skeletons was about as close as I could get to drawing prehistoric animals in a zoo. This large collection of skeletons was at the Gallery of Paleontology.
This was the Gallery of Comparative Anatomy. All of these are skeletons of modern animals placed in groups that allow comparisons between species. I loved this display. Each wall was covered in comparisons of antlers and horns, or whale and hippo skulls. The cases were full of smaller animals and comparisons between feet, skulls, spines, ect. There was also an entire case comparing human skeletons with different primates.
While in Paris I also visited the Sevres Porcelain Factory and National Porcelain Museum. This allowed me to research the history of ceramics, as well as the technical processes used by the factory.
Dresden was a beautiful city. All of the museums were in one location near the opera house in what used to be Augustus the Strong’s Palace. Augustus the Strong had a passion for porcelain and his collection is one of the largest in the world. It includes the hall of Meissen animals, which is what I went to see. I couldn’t take pictures in the porcelain museums, but I got pictures of these animals at the factory. These animals were commissioned by Augustus the Strong in the 1700’s and were based on the royal menagerie. Most of them were large sculptures making them a technical marvel for porcelain at the time. I loved learning more about the history of animals in clay and Dresden and Meissen were the perfect cities for this.
These animal sculptures were so difficult to cast in porcelain at the time, that they were left without the enamel color, or china paint, used on everything else in the factory. This was because the additional firing for china paint would often crack these large pieces. The factory still casts some of these animals today. Here are some images of the other beautiful animals made at Meissen, including the Monkey Orchestra, commissioned by Louis the XIV.
This trip really combined my two passions; animals and ceramics. I was also able to visit the Dresden Zoo, the Paris Museum of Hunting and Nature, and a special exhibit at the Paris Decorative Arts Museum called Animal. The sculptures I am making now are heavily influenced by the things I was able to see on this trip.