Manufactory Höchst Manufactory German
Model attributed to Johann Christoph Ludwig von Lücke German

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 538

The fourth factory in Europe to produce hard- paste porcelain was established in 1746 in the town of Höchst, which lies to the west of Frankfurt.[1] It was founded by the potter Adam Friedrich von Löwenfinck (German, 1714–1754) and two business partners, who sub-mitted a proposal that year to the elector of Mainz, Johann Friedrich Carl von Ostein (1689–1763), in whose domain Höchst was located, requesting a privilege to make porcelain. The three men were quickly granted the privilege, which not only gave them the exclusive right to produce porcelain for a fifty-year period but also exempted them from paying duties on the most essential materials.[2] Löwenfinck hired workers with expertise in making both porcelain and faience, yet despite their best efforts they were unable to develop an acceptable porcelain paste, and the factory made only faience during its first three years of operation. The arrival of new workers in 1750 led to the successful production of porcelain by the end of that year, and regardless of fluctuating financial stability over the next several decades, Höchst was to achieve a level of artistic and technical success seldom matched by the other German porcelain factories in the second half of the eighteenth century.

The Höchst factory was typical of most eighteenth-century porcelain enterprises both in its reliance on the expertise of workers trained elsewhere and its consistently shifting roster of employees. The factory’s modelers, kiln technicians, and painters were constantly changing, and it was not uncommon for people in key positions to remain for only a few years before moving on to another factory. The factory employed four different modelers in the early 1750s when the Museum’s figure of Harlequin was made, and the identity of its modeler has been the subject of debate.[3]

The Harlequin was conceived as one of a series of commedia dell’arte figures[4] that constituted the second set of such figures created at Höchst during the early 1750s. The first set was modeled by Johann Gottfried Becker (German, active at Höchst from 1746), who had previously worked at the Meissen factory, and his somewhat static commedia figures reflect the influence of Meissen models.[5] It is surprising that the Höchst factory chose to produce a second series of commedia figures so shortly after the first, and notable that it turned to a different modeler even though Becker was still in the factory’s employ. Horst Reber suggests that this Harlequin and the other figures in the series are the work of Johann Christoph Ludwig von Lücke (German, 1703–1780), who was at Höchst very briefly in the early 1750s.[6] Lücke was trained as a sculptor, and he worked with Balthasar Permoser (German, 1651–1732) in Vienna and with Johann Joachim Kändler (German, 1706–1775) at Meissen, as well as having been employed by the Imperial Porcelain Manufactory in Vienna.[7] He is known to have worked in ivory early in his career, and his ivory figures of Scaramouche and Columbine dated to around 1730 are in the collection of the treasure chamber in Dresden known as the Green Vaults.[8] Lücke’s training as a sculptor is evident in this porcelain figure of Harlequin and in the other figures he modeled that compose the series.[9] Although standing on a pedestal, Harlequin is depicted in motion, with weight on his left foot, his right arm raised, and his head and torso turning toward the viewer. He appears to be stepping off the pedestal, and his posture of leaning in the direction of the viewer adds further dynamism to an already animated pose. These same highly sculptural qualities characterize the other figures in Lücke’s commedia series; each figure appears to resist the confines of the pedestal on which he stands, and with the gestures created through the positioning of both arms and feet, the figures seem to move toward inhabiting the viewer’s space.

Another distinguishing feature of Lücke’s commedia dell’arte figures is the use of a pedestal to support each figure. The design of the pedestals, while generic, is similar to that commonly used to support lifesize stone sculptures, and thus, the pedestals reflect a marked departure from the very simple low bases with little definition customarily found on porcelain figures. Due to the height provided by the pedestals, the gestures of the porcelain figures are emphasized and their sculptural qualities enhanced. It is likely that a series of lifesize sculptures in the garden at Schönborn Garden Palace in Vienna provided the inspiration for this series of Höchst figures.[10] The sculptures depict characters from the commedia dell’arte, and each rests on a pedestal similar in profile to that of the Museum’s Harlequin. It can be assumed that Lücke was familiar with the sculptures from his time working in Vienna. Perhaps equally important, Ostein, who had granted the privilege for the founding of the Höchst factory, would certainly have known these works, as he was the nephew of Friedrich Karl von Schönborn (1674–1746), for whom the palace was built. The circumstances of the creation of this series of figures remain unknown, but Reber has indicated that Lücke may have been brought to Höchst at the suggestion of Ostein, and that the latter may have commissioned the figures from the factory.[11] The rarity of these particular commedia dell’arte figures and the ambition behind their creation, notable for a young factory, support this hypothesis.

(For key to shortened references see bibliography in Munger, European Porcelain in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. NY: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2018)
1 For a history of the Höchst factory, see Pietsch and Witting 2010, pp. 131–33, nos. 141–48 (catalogue entries by Horst Reber), nos. 149, 150 (catalogue entries by Christine Kitzlinger); Reber 2010; Nelson 2013, pp. 279–323.
2 Nelson 2013, p. 279.
3 This figure of Harlequin and the other figures in the series to which he belongs have frequently been attributed to the modeler Simon Feilner (see Reber 2001, p. 41), although this attribution is no longer generally accepted.
4 Varying numbers ranging from fourteen to sixteen have been cited as the total number constituting the series. Reber (ibid.) lists the number as fifteen; Christina Nelson (2013, p. 285) cites the number as sixteen.
5 Nelson 2013, p. 281.
6 Reber 2001, p. 41.
7 Reber 1993, p. 109.
8 J. Menzhausen 1968, p. 104, no. 120.
9 See Morley- Fletcher 1993, vol. 1, pp. 112–27. See also Clare Le Corbeiller in Metropolitan Museum 1984a, pp. 276–78, nos. 204–8.
10 Reber 1993, pp. 105–6; see especially the print illustrating the garden sculptures on p. 106.
11 Ibid., p. 110. There were at least two series of the figures produced, as indicated by differences in the decoration of the pedestals.

Harlequin, Höchst Manufactory (German, 1746–1796), Hard-paste porcelain decorated in polychrome enamels, gold, German, Höchst

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.