Hand-painted Royal Vienna-style porcelain cabinet plate (one of three), depicting a woman richly clad in mid sixteenth century Germanic clothing, possbily after an orignial painting by Wilhelm Menzler (1846-1926), and manufactured circa 1880.

In 1718, the Dutch ceramist Claudius Innocentius Du Paquier, founded the Royal Vienna Porcelain Factory, drawing on the expertise of workmen from the other major European centre of porcelain production at Meissen, Germany, which itself had only been established eight years earlier. For almost a quarter of a century, Du Paquier's manufactory was the only other rival to Meissen producing genuine hard-paste porcelain before financial difficulties forced him to sell the business to the Austrian State in 1744. It continued under a series of directors until finally closing in 1865.

However, the term 'Royal Vienna' is still applied to porcelain made after this date, and by a range of manufacturers who continued to produce decorative porcelain vases, plates and plaques in a similar style. Painted porcelain 'cabinet plates' gained popularity in the second half of the nineteenth century, often being decorated with portraits copied from well-known paintings by a relatively small group of artists.

Although the original painting on which this plate's portrait remains unidentified, the related two Royal Vienna-style plates in the Twycross Collection depicting women in sixteenth century Renaissance dress are based on paintings by the German artist, Wilhelm Menzler. Several similar examples of such plates are known, in some cases being signed 'W. Menzler', although the signature refers to him as the artist of the painting on which the plate design is based, and not the actual porcelain artist.

It is likely that the subject of this portrait is Philippine Welser (1527-1580), the wife of Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria. Menzler exhibited two paintings at the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition, one a portrait of Philippine Welser, and the other a portrait of Agnes Bernauer, the so-called 'Beauty of Ausburg' (1410-1435), mistress of the later Albert III, Duke of Bavaria. His portrait of Bernauer was awarded a first prize and, both paintings were later reported in the Illustrated Sydney News as having been acquired by the New South Wales Academy of Art, the forerunner to the present Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Many of Menzler's paintings date to the late 1870s, and Royal Vienna-style cabinet plates carrying his designs would have been included among the exhibits at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. Three Viennese firms were noted by Melbourne's Argus newspaper for their enamel and painted porcelain exhibits, Radler and Pilz, Charles Fab and Josef Zasche. It is possible these plates were purchased from one of them.

Physical Description

One of three wall plates, each painted with a portrait of a woman. Woman wearing a cap above hair in a jewelled net, a high ruff, and a charcoal grey cloak with a fur collar, all on light blue background.

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