It took a few years for me to discover that this unglazed biscuit group was made by the Zurich Porcelain Manufactory. The model is by Johann Wilhelm Spengler and dates to 1775/1776.
Johann Wilhelm Spengler, aka Johann Wilhelm Spängler, was the son of Adam Spengler, then director of the Zurich Factory. Whether or not it had anything to do with the father/son dynamic I can’t say but the younger Spengler left Zurich to work for the Derby Factory in England. Spängler, as he was known there, was responsible for many of Derby’s finest biscuit figures in the late 18th century.
I came to know this in a serendipitous way. I had read someone else’s story online about how they had a Zurich figure for years without knowing it until they discovered one like it in a book. You see Zurich figures are very scarce and much sought after. After reading this story, I decided to order Siegfried Ducret’s “Die Zürcher Porzellanmanufaktur” published in 1959. Not because I had any hunches I might have one, just so that I could learn more about the factory.
When the book arrived, I turned the pages to find an illustration of an enamelled version. Some online searching revealed that there was a current show of Zurich figures taking place at the Swiss National Museum. I sent some images with a note. I received a very kind reply from the curator telling me that my attribution was “absolutely right”.
This piece is very thickly press moulded with slab supports underneath as can be seen in the images. Feels very substantial for its size when held in the hands. The fired paste, or porcelain body as the contemporary potter might call it, is so vitrified it is almost glass like.
Biscuit figures are often seen as lessor today than the enamelled examples. In truth, only the very best copies would be finished in biscuit. Glaze and enamel hide a multitude of sins. The biscuit surface reveals all. It needed to be as close to perfection as possible.
13.5 cm in height