The commode offered here is a fine example of the extraordinary craftsmanship in Rococo Franconia. In the era of Markgravine Wilhelmine (1709-1758), Bayreuth was a very fashionable and mundane court. Wilhelmine born as Princess of Prussia and sister of King Frederick the Great was originally to be married to a member of a European Royal family. Politics made such a marriage impossible and led the princess to Franconia where she married Markgrave Friedrich of Brandenburg-Bayreuth (1711-1763). A gifted musician herself, she supported all fields of art throughout her life. Bayreuth Rococo tends to have a special avant-garde feel, certainly owed to the character and the predilections of Wilhelmine. It is impossible to name one specific characteristic, but if one were to do so, a certain love for the impressive Franconian landscape around Bayreuth as underlying 'proto-romantic' principle can be felt in many creations.
The most important testimony of this specific Bayreuth Rococo in the field of furniture is the so-called Spindlerkabinett or Marquetry Chamber of Castle Fantaisie near Bayreuth, a "Gesamtkunstwerk" of wall decoration, floor and furniture by the brothers Johann Friedrich (1726-1812) and Heinrich Wilhelm Spindler (1738-1788). The surviving panels, which were created in the early 1760ies for Wilhelmine's daughter Elisabeth Friederike (1732-1780), are nowadays preserved at the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum in Munich. They bear witness to the innovative concept of using the natural grain and structure of various types of wood to depict landscape structures – a concept that is known in stone as pietra dura, but rarely seen in wood. The most refined German works of such painting in wood are certainly owed to the Spindler workshop.
The present example is very similar, not only to some of the panels of the Marquetry Chamber, but also to a commode mentioned in Die Kunst des deutschen Möbels by Heinrich Kreisel (op. cit.) and reproduced in the catalogue. The top and front of this comparable piece are decorated with similar cartouches, the front depicts a landscape with an articulated tree and rock with a small dwelling on top. Furthermore the rocaille design of the two commodes is very alike. Characteristically of this type of commodes is the division in three sections of top and front which can be found on several surviving pieces.
Although the attribution of this type of commodes to the Spindler family is generally accepted, this understanding was challenged by Sigrid Sangl in her article in Furniture History in 1991. Based on stylistic arguments she states that "there is no way in determining whether all or any of these Upper Franconian commodes were made by one of the Spindler family". Unfortunately archival records on the Spindler family are missing, so that at the time Sangl felt that an attribution of such commodes to the Spindler family would always have to be considered rather a possibility than a certainty. Almost twenty years after Sangl's article the Bayreuth period of the Spindler family is still a chapter of furniture history that waits to be reviewed. What one is tempted to ask is which other workshop in South Germany, leave alone the important but small artistic centres of Bayreuth or Bamberg, might be named for such extraordinary, constructively and artistically innovative work. In fact, only the Spindler workshop seems to qualify.
The scene depicted on the front of the commode offered here is possibly inspired by the Sanspareil garden near Bayreuth, an invention of Markgravine Wilhelmine. The garden was laid out around a natural formation of sandstone pinnacles, which the Markgravine described as "Die Natur selbst war die Baumeister". This statement also applies for the variety of marquetry described above and thus also for the commode offered here: Nature herself was the designer.
A comparable commode with similar decoration, portrait drawer handles and attribution to the Spindler brothers was offered in our New York rooms, 5 November 1998, as lot 431. This attribution has been unchallenged until today.
H. Kreisel, G. Himmelheber, Die Kunst des Deutschen Möbels. Spätbarock und Rokoko, vol. 2, München 1983, fig. 726.
Sigrid Sangl, 'Spindler?' in: Furniture History 1991, p. 22-67.
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