Count Bruhl's Tailor

What's the longest you've ever waited for your glasses? A week...two weeks? These days some high street opticians will produce them for you within an hour. In the first days of the National Health Service they could take 18 months.

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Meissen figurine of a bespectacled goat ridden by a tailor

But for one poor goat...
 
Our Meissen-ware goat got his spectacles back after a wait of more than 30 years. In fact we've only met one person who remembered this object with them and he's decidedly hazy about the date. What happened to the spectacles we're not sure, but now the object makes sense again and forms the centrepiece of our porcelain display which museum visitors can see if they opt for a Full Building Tour.
 
Heinrich, Count von Brühl (1700-1763) was Chief Minister of Frederick Augustus II of Saxony from 1746 and director of the Meissen factory 1733-1763 during its so-called 'plastic period'. Grateful for the good services of his tailor he asked the man to name his reward. The tailor asked for an invitation to the next State banquet...which horrified the Count because the lesser sort was not seen at such events. Nevertheless he had given his word so the invitation was duly issued.
 
When the tailor arrived, however, he found himself a laughing stock as this satrical table decoration had been placed in the middle of the room. Oh, how everyone laughed! There he is with his scissors, his pin cushions and his handkerchiefs, with oversized spectacles, riding on a similarly visually-challenged goat.
 
Moral of this story: Sometimes it is better to labour and not to ask for any reward.

The spectacles were provided so that the tailor may have his eyes opened, that he may see his proper station in life.
 
The original piece (designed by Kaendler in 1737) is said to have been commissioned by Brühl in reference to the tradition that tailors, like goats, often had scanty beards. The sculpture caught the popular imagination and many versions of it were reproduced, though not all examples included spectacles. A base was added to some smaller models from 1740 and a companion piece, the Tailor's Wife, will sometimes be found. Our featured object, which stands some 40cm high, is a much later version from circa 1870, considered to be the Meissen factory's finest period. When the BOA Museum acquired the piece in 1937 it would not even have been considered an antique. Now it is an item of some rarity and deserving of restorative care. The porcelain restorer Matthew Flynn, working under the direction of renowned Meissen expert Lawrence Mitchell, was able to recreate the spectacles from original sources though we had to make an informed guess at the goat's prescription!

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