The Forbidden Fruit is a porcelain art installation created by renowned porcelain sculptor, Chris Antemann. The artist created her metaphoric sculpture as part of the Art Studio Program organized by the Meissen Porcelain Manufactory in Germany. The sculpture is based on the narrative of the Garden of Eden, but the artist adds her own twist to the story by adding details from the banqueting craze of the 18th century.
Antemann is known across the art world for her obsession and dedication to working with porcelain to build complex, multi-figure scenes that evoke the 18th century cultural traditions in the mind of the viewer. Most of her work employs concept and design to examine and portray the common roles that males and females have in relationships. The porcelain figurines have different characters, and the artist develops various themes and incidents from these characters.
Eventually, the figurines form their own language that tells the viewer about taboos, social etiquette and the domestic rituals that were common place in the 18th century English homes. She usually employs her own contemporary twists to the historic tales so that modern viewers can have a connection with the elaborate designs. Most of her thematic works revolve around picnic luncheons, exquisite and expensive dinner parties, as well as ornamental gardens.
According to Antemann, Johanu Joachim’s ‘Love Temple’, which was sculpted in 1750, inspired her while she was planning her ‘Forbidden Fruit’ project. She stripped the original work by Joachim to its basic forms and began adding intuitively details of her own version of traditional banquet frenzy. During the 18th century, the banquet was not simply a dinner for the aristocrats. Rather, it was a social construct where everybody invited deserved to be there based on their standing in the community. The banquets usually had rare delicacies, powered wigs, painted faces, sugared centerpieces that focused on particular themes, and a huge emphasis on porcelain.
The result of her re-creation of the 18th century craze is a 5-foot porcelain installation that delves into the realm of contemporary morality through the lens of games, relationship rituals, and tales. The porcelain figurines also point to the moral decay that was prominent during the Watteau and Boucher eras.
Her version of the ‘Love Temple’ is the centerpiece of her masterful interpretation of moral decadence that surrounded the banqueting craze of the mid-18th century as well as her skillful adaptation of the Garden of Eden. The installation houses a group of half-naked revelers surrounding a lavish table full of ‘forbidden fruit’. Above the table is a porcelain chandelier known as the Paradise Chandelier as well as smaller sculptures along the walls of the gallery, reminiscent of the porcelain rooms that were palatial in size. The vignettes on the table entertain the viewers with their seduction-filled gestures and dalliance.
Different vignettes play different facets of the dalliance in the installation. For instance, there are vignettes portraying the ‘secluded kiss’, the ‘coronation’, the ‘pursuit of love’, and the ‘love letter’. There is also a porcelain vignette of the ‘fruit of knowledge’ at the center of the table. An expansion was created for the pleasure garden consisting of eight different pieces that surround the table, which is a representation of the sur la table of the 18th century.
Antemann, through her porcelain figurines, has accurately brought to life the reverie and the decadence that prevailed in almost every English banquet in the 18th century. Her miniature sculptures point to a time when such soirees were common place in the English culture. They also depict the instantaneous transition of English civilized folk into morally inept individuals the minute they walked into a banquet party. The skillful portrayal of the seduction and the scandalous dalliance of the time is what make Antemann’s work a beautiful art piece.