The Meissen Fountain Restoration Project
The Meissen Fountain Restoration Project involved the re-creation of missing or damaged elements of a porcelain table fountain made by Meissen in the eighteen century. This table fountain, the largest assemblage of its kind in existence, was modelled by Johann Joachim Kändler for Count von Brűhl, Prime Minister of Saxony and Director of the Meissen factory. The baroque design of the table fountain was based on the Neptune Fountain in the gardens of von Brűhl’s summer palace in Dresden. In the eighteenth century the table fountain was used as a centrepiece at state dinners:
‘We sat down at one table two hundred and six People (twas at Count Brühl's) ... In the middle of the Table was the Fountain... at least eight foot high, which ran all the while with Rose- water...’ (From a letter dated 4 February 1748, written by Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, British envoy at the Dresden court)
Professor Martin Smith and Dr Steve Brown from the RCA worked with a curatorial team from the V&A led by Reino Liefkes, Senior Curator and Head of Ceramics and Glass. The restoration
utilised research undertaken by Liefkes that determined the original layout of the table fountain. Digital scans were taken of the existing surviving and damaged elements owned by the V&A, porcelain objects in the Dresden Porcelain Museum made using the same moulds as the table fountain, and scans of the Neptune fountain in Dresden. Using this data, Professor Smith and Dr Brown recreated the pieces that were missing or it was decided were too damaged to restore. The new pieces were made in porcelain using a combination of digital scanning and model making and traditional ceramic casting and hand-modelling techniques.
In 2015 the restored table fountain was installed in a four-metre-wide space in the V&A’s new Europe 1600–1815 Galleries, along with a video showing the restoration process.