Porcelain Lady, 1755

Franz Anton Bustelli, Porzellanmanufaktur Nymphenburg


There are a couple of things that make this small porcelain figurine (about 15 cm high) special. For example, it shows a robe that is closed in front, while robes of the 1750s usually opened to show a decorative jupe. The very wide skirt is also very 1740ish, while the sleeve flounces are more typical of the 1750s. From behind we can see that the dress is a robe à la française with a short train.

But the most interesting thing is that the lady lifts her skirt, thus showing her petticoat (or is it the panier itself?) and the lines of boning in her panier. Five rows of boning are visible, but there must be at least one more (more probably two) where her arm obscures them. I believe I've counted seven altogether when I saw the figurine at an antique market. That's more than in any other source, be it Waugh's "Corsets and Crinolines" or a surviving hoop skirt at the German National Museum.

Looking at paintings of scenes in and around Munich, I've found that lifting the robe skirt was quite usual at least in that region. Many ladies are depicted with the skirt gathered up on both sides, revealing a white skirt underneath. The lady here is therefore not unusually "open".

Nymphenburg is the name of a palace built by Maximilian, Elector of Bavaria, in the 1660s. With the support of one of his successors, a porcelain manufacture was founded in 1747, and produced fine porcelain from 1753 on. Swiss Franz Anton Bustelli was their prime designer during the early period. Nymphenburg is now the most prominent porcelain manufacture in Bavaria, and one of the most important (and expensive) in Germany.