Ara ararauna

about 1732
Made by Meissen Manufactory (Germany), Modeled by Johann Joachim Kändler (German, 1706–1775)

Object Place: Meissen, Germany


Overall: 124.5 cm (49 in.) Weight (estimated): 55 lb. (24.95 kg)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Hard-paste porcelain

On View

Angelica Lloyd Russell Gallery (Gallery 142)





Naturalistically modeled, perching on a tree stump base, upside down with wings unfurled and beak open.

The porcelain animals created at the Meissen manufactory between 1730 and 1736 represent one of the most ambitious commissions in the history of European ceramics. Around 1725, Augustus II, elector of Saxony and King of Poland, conceived the bold plan to convert a Dresden residence, known as the “Japanese” Palace, into a magnificent setting for the royal ceramics collection. The ground floor rooms were to showcase more than 25,000 pieces of Chinese and Japanese ceramics, while the upper story was reserved for the porcelain produced at his own factory in nearby Meissen. The most spectacular interior was to be a long gallery, decorated with nearly six hundred porcelain animals.

Sixty-nine different species were ordered, ranging from dogs, foxes, and goats to exotic elephants and monkeys, and even three mythical creatures. These large animals, some life-sized, stretched the technical and artistic limits of the porcelain medium, only recently discovered in Europe.

In May 1732 Kändler created one of the most dynamic and expressive animals of all-a life-sized Brazilian macaw climbing down a tree trunk. The earlier birds had derived from prints published in zoological treatises, resulting in static poses and occasionally stylized features. By spring 1732, however, Kändler based his models on live animals in the royal zoos in and around Dresden, achieving an astonishing degree of naturalism. Measuring four feet in height, this model is also one of the largest produced at Meissen.

The production was such a drain on the factory’s resources that the last orders were placed in 1736 and the scheme abandoned entirely by 1740. Still, Meissen delivered more than five hundred sculptures in less than ten years. This macaw belongs to a group of eight animals recently acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts through gift and bequest from New York collectors Edward and Kiyi Pflueger.


Between 1730 and 1736, commissioned by Augustus II (b. 1670 – d. 1733), King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, and his successor, Augustus III (b. 1696 – d. 1763), King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, for the Japanese Palace in Dresden [see note 1]. James A. Lewis & Son, New York. Edulji Dinshaw (b. 1916 - d. 1970), New York; December 8, 1962, Dinshaw sale, Parke-Bernet, New York, lot 35, to Edward M. Pflueger (b. 1905 - d. 1997) and Kiyi Powers Pflueger (b. 1915 - d. 2008), New York; 2006, bequest of Edward M. Pflueger and gift of Kiyi Powers Pflueger to the MFA. (Accession Date: April 26, 2006)

[1] Augustus II (“the Strong”) began building the Japanese Palace in Dresden in 1725 and commissioned more than 35,000 porcelain works from the nearby Meissen porcelain manufactory to furnish his "porcelain palace." The original collection featured more than 500 large bird and animal figures; among these were 37 animal species and 32 bird species. Augustus II died in 1733 and his son Augustus III took over the project. The Japanese Palace became a museum and library after the death of Augustus III, and parts of the collection were sold and traded in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Credit Line

Kiyi and Edward M. Pflueger Collection. Bequest of Edward M. Pflueger and Gift of Kiyi Powers Pflueger