The satirical portrait bust of the court jester Johann Gottfried Tuscheer (born as Johann Gottfried Graf), better known as Baron Schmiedel or Postmaster Schmiedel, was one of the last royal commissions for the Japanese Palace of Augustus the Strong, King of Poland (ruled 1694-1733) and Elector of Saxony. The Japanese Palace was a lavish structure in Dresden refurbished to house both the fabulous royal collection of East Asian porcelains and the amazing new products of the Royal Saxon Porcelain Manufactory in Meissen near Dresden in Germany. Established in 1710, following re-discovery of porcelain formula by the King's imprisoned alchemist Johann Joachim Böttger, Meissen was Europe's first factory to make true or hard-paste porcelain. By the mid 1730s, the factory had been able to make monumental animal sculptures, apostle figures and even architectural elements alongside their exquisitely painted vases and tableware.
The bust was modelled by Johann Joachim Kändler (1706-75), the court 'Modellmeister' (master modeller) who worked at the Meissen manufactory from 1731 until his death in 1775. The bust was ordered by Augustus III, Augustus the Strong's son and successor. The medallion on Schmiedel's chest is based on one of Augustus' coronation medals.
A highly talented individual who delighted in dressing in the latest fashions, Schmiedel was one of two most prominent jesters at the Saxon court at the time. His role as a jester involved attending the kings in their dressing rooms, at dinners and even at the most intimate court gatherings. He kept company with the kings on visits and hunting expeditions, always ready to crack a joke, exchange witty badinage or play magic tricks with mice (he was well known for his morbid fear of all rodents). Schmiedel was rewarded with numerous 'titles' and valuable presents including Meissen porcelain.
The Schmiedel bust was discovered in Sydney in 1949 by the noted Sydney antique dealer William Bradshaw at a time when its importance and history had been long forgotten. It was acquired by the Museum in 1951. This bust is one of only three original examples of this design known to exist, and is among the most important objects in the Museum's collection of ceramics.
Eva Czernis-Ryl, 2005
For full story see: E. Czernis-Ryl, 'The golden years of Meissen porcelain and Saxon jesters: the Schmiedel bust in Australia', Keramik-Freunde der Schweiz (Bulletin des Amis Suisses de la Ceramique), Mitteilungsblatt nr 104, October 1989, pp.5-11