Swan Service: The baroque Meissen porcelain tableware – over 2,200 individual pieces

The Swan Service is maybe the most famous baroque porcelain dinner tableware. It is a product of the well known Meissen porcelain manufacturers, created by  Johann Friedrich Eberlein and  Johann Joachim Kändler between 1737 and 1742 in Germany.

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This important set of porcelain tableware was made for Count Heinrich Graf von Brühl who was director of the Meissen factory, and the First Minister of the Electorate of Saxony.

Swan Service, confectionery dish, c. 1737-1741, Meissen, Gardiner Museum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Photo Credit

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Swan Service, c. 1737-1741, hard-paste porcelain, overglaze enamels, gilding -Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo Credit

This magnificent porcelain set in baroque style was produced in four years and contains over 2,200 individual pieces. For the modeling of the Swan Service, the designers spent three days of studying shells.

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Its decorations are inspired by the water and mostly from a pair of swans, and that’s why this tableware was called Swan Service. Every single piece of the set has a background based on a scallop shell, in the center, there was the pair of swans, and in some plates, fish can be seen on the left or the right side. The relief backgrounds were commonly used by Meissen under Kändler, imitating wickerwork geometric patterns.

Swan Service dish, Johann Joachim Kaendler, Exhibit in the Wadsworth Atheneum – Hartford, Connecticut, USA.


One of the several Swan Service pieces with mythology motif, Galathea 1738. Photo Credit


Johann Friedrich Eberlein, 1738, fish details. Photo Credit

The large pieces from the set include opulent centerpieces (tureens and candelabra), and smaller items such as wall sconces,  teapots, coffee and tea cups. Its decoration also includes small painted flowers (Indian flowers) called indianische Blumen.

Almost all pieces of the Swan Service has designs of the impaled coat of arms of  Heinrich von Brühl and his wife, Countess Franziska Kolowrat-Krakowsky. Several pieces of the tableware contain figures from Greco-Roman mythology, and the decoration on the flatware pieces is gold rims.

A painting portrait of Heinrich von Brühl by Marcello Bacciarelli, 1758–63.


Teacup and saucer, c. 1737-1741. Gardiner Museum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Photo Credit

Heinrich von Brühl was an extravagant figure and indeed highly privileged person by Augustus III, Elector of Saxony (the king).

Probably, the Swan Service was a wedding gift for Brühl’s marriage in November 1737, from the King. The Brühl family possessed it until the last years of the 19th century, and the porcelain was stored at the family castle Schloss Pförten.

A model made by Johann Friedrich Eberlein, 1741. Photo Credit


The Swanson Service was a wedding gift for Count Heinrich Graf von Brühl from the king. Photo Credit

Around the 1880s, some of the pieces of the set were taken in private collections, and the rest of them were given to museums. So by the begging of the 20th century, the Swan Service was counting 1,400 pieces. When the castle Schloss Pförten was occupied and ruined by the Soviet Red Army, during the World War II, the half of the service appears to have been lost and maybe destroyed.

Some of the items that survived, still appear on the art market. In 2015, a teacup and saucer were sold for $40,250,  a mustard-pot cover for $10,125,  a slop bowl for  $23,439 and many other items, on an auction in London.