Dining tables in the eighteenth century were decorated on special occasions with ornamental porcelain centrepieces, which played the same role as a vase of flowers today. The table decoration usually matched the shape and decoration of the table service, providing an aesthetic highlight to a formally prepared table. The centrepiece often consisted of a series of figures in miniature architecture, and an even more picturesque effect was achieved by the composition being reflected in fitted mirrors. Popular motifs included characters from commedia dell’arte, Rococo gallantries, groups of cupids, personifications of the seasons, scenes of the crucifixion and chinoiseries. Among the most interesting is a table decoration made in 1755 by one of the most prominent porcelain designer, Franz Anton Bustelli (1723-1763), for the Munich porcelain factory Nymphenburg, at the time of the wedding of one of the Bavarian princesses. It consists of a miniature garden with all the architectural details, with cypresses, decorative vases, ladies and cavaliers. The two Chinese men and women are part of another table decoration which is no longer complete. Bustelli made it in the same factory a little before 1763. The set originally consisted of sixteen Chinese divinities and ten adorants, both men and women. The two Chinese woman in particular are considered to be at the peak of Bustelli’s work and thus of European porcelain design. There are single figurines in public collections in Munich, Köln and London, but the four Chinese figurines in the National Museum of Slovenia are the largest group of the incomplete table decoration known.


  • Title: Chinese figurines
  • Creator: Franz Anton Bustelli
  • Date: Before 1763
  • Date Created: Before 1763
  • Location Created: Munich, Germany
  • Physical Dimensions: Chinese women h. 10.3 cm and 12.5 cm, Chinamen h. 11.2 cm and 12.2 cm
  • Provenance: Presumably gift of Franz Count Hohenwart 1833
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Rights: Narodni muzej Slovenije
  • Medium: Glazed and hand painted hard-paste porcelain

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