NCECA Undergraduate Fellowship: My research trip to Paris and Germany

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 is the skull of Arsinotherium, an impressive ancestor of the modern rhinoceros.

This is Megatherium. As the largest of the ground sloths it stood 20 feet tall.

These are some skulls of elephant ancestors, with the mammoth skeleton behind.

Megaloceros was a massive animal related to elk that lived during the ice age.

The predator display, included dire wolf, dire bears and saber cats.

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.

I also visited the Gallery of Evolution. This exhibition of hundreds of species as taxidermy specimens was really amazing to see.

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.

After Paris, I spent time in Dresden visiting the Porcelain Museum there, seeing the Hall of Meissen animals, and taking a trip out to the Meissen Porcelain Factory and their Museum.

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.

This is the famous Meissen rhinoceros at the Meissen Porcelain Factory Museum. It was first cast in 1731 and modeled by Joachim Kaendler who created naturalistic but exaggerated sculptures.

This pair of Meissen lions was first cast in 1732. They were modeled by Gottlieb Kirchner, who sculpted animals with humanistic expressions.

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.

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About Ariel Bowman

I grew up in Dallas, Texas where I learned to love nature, animals, and art. I graduated with a BFA in ceramics from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2011. I am currently working towards my MFA in ceramics at the University of Florida. This blog serves as a way for my friends and family, as well as anyone interested in my work, to view not only the finished pieces, but some of the process as well. You can subscribe to this blog to keep up to date on what I am currently working on in the studio, research, new sources, and exhibitions.
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