Porcelain sculptures like this reflected emerging European perceptions of people and cultures from Africa and Asia, often reinforcing inaccurate and ultimately harmful ideas about race and power. The Turkish ruler is imagined lounging in a lavish setting, rather than depicted in an authoritative stance. Though Black Africans could be important officials in the Ottoman Empire, the figure shown here is a servant. As you view this sculpture, consider the ways art like this impacted the worldview of the wealthy Europeans who owned it.
Artist after a model by Johann Joachim Kändler, German, 1706-1775
Artist after a model by Peter Reinicke, German, 1715-1768
Manufacturer Meissen Porcelain Manufactory, German, founded 1710
  • Sultan Riding an Elephant
Date ca. 1749
Medium hard-paste porcelain, vitreous enamel, gold; bronze, gold
Dimensions Overall: 15 3/8 × 14 1/2 × 8 7/8 inches (39.1 × 36.8 × 22.5 cm)
Credit Line Museum Purchase, Robert H. Tannahill Foundation Fund, Gilbert B.and Lila Silverman, and the Visiting Committee for European Sculputure and Decorative Arts
Accession Number 2004.11
Department European Sculpture and Dec Arts
On View Fashionable Living: S330.7, Level 3 (see map)
Marks Marks, in underglaze blue, under elephant's belly: [crossed swords]
1990, M. Raymond Esq. (Belchamp Hall, Suffolk, England);
July 4, 1996, sold by (Christie's, London, England) lot 247
(By 2003, Angela Gräfin von Wallwitz, Munich, Germany);
2004-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Gräfin von Wallwitz, A., ed. Meissen Porcelain for Gentlemen. Munich, 2005, St. 416, p. 172; pp. 114-115 (ill.).

Darr, Alan. P. and Brian Gallagher. "Recent acquisitions (2000-2006) of European sculpture and decorative arts at The Detroit Institute of Arts." The Burlington Magazine 149, no. 1251 (June 2007): p. 451, pl. VII (ill.).

You, Yao-Fen. “From Novelty to Necessity: The Europeanization of Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate.” In Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate: Consuming the World, ed. Yao-Fen You, Mimi Hellman, and Hope Saska. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 2016, p. 27 (ill.); 29; 131, cat. 16.

Bulletin of the DIA: Notable Acquisitions, 2000–2015 89, no. 1/4 (2015): p. 28 (ill.).