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About This Artwork
Conductor for the Monkey Band, c. 1765
Hard-paste porcelain, polychrome enamels, and gilding
16.8 cm (6 5/8 in.)
Gift of Robert Allerton, 1946.479
In 1733, the sculptor Johann Joachim Kändler became the chief modeler at the Meissen Porcelain Manufactory, a position he held until his death in 1775. Kändler, along with his assistant Peter Reinicke, devised novel and innovative forms and figures for Meissen porcelain. One of the most admired products of the factory were the monkey bands, witty examples of 18th-century singerie: subjects in which monkeys literally “ape” the behavior of supposedly more sophisticated humans.
The first version of the monkey band was designed in 1753 and Madame de Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV of France and a discerning patron of the arts, ordered a set at Christmas of that year. The group was so popular that it was reissued in the early 1760s. The Art Institute’s monkey band comes from this second edition.
In addition to a conductor and two female singers, the orchestra consists of musicians playing wind, string, and percussion instruments. There are also two instruments that were associated with rustic rather than courtly music: the bagpipe and the hurdy gurdy, in which the sound is produced by turning a hand crank that rotates a wheel that bows a set of strings.
— Permanent collection label