European Ceramics & Glass

Mounting and Meissen | Elias Adam: Enhancing the Precious

By John D. Ward

M eissen porcelain was a rare substance when it appeared in the early 18th century – the delicate treasure of the East, finally produced in Europe. Such rarities entranced the collectors, retailers, and artists of the time: imported exotics like Eastern porcelain, lacquer, and ostrich eggs, and European accomplishments such as carved agate, ruby glass, and painted enamels. These were often further enhanced with silver or silver-gilt mounts, “gilding the lily” of their rarity and adding to their value, transforming them into treasury objects.
In the first twenty years of Meissen, a similar approach was taken for their “white gold,” the latest prized resource of the Saxon kingdom. The Court at Dresden wanted to enhance and promote their achievement, and create objects that the King-Elector, Augustus the Strong, could bestow as gifts or use for his own splendor. They turned to the center of northern silversmithing, Augsburg, and particularly to a craftsman who had already demonstrated his proficiency with precious materials.

Fig. 2: Map showing Bavaria (left) with Augsburg outside of Munich; Saxony (center) with Meissen outside of Dresden, and Leipzig to its northwest; Zullichow in Western Poland, then part of Brandenburg-Prussia; and to the east Augustus the Strong’s second capital at Warsaw.

Early Career

Elias Adam was born around 1669 in the town of Züllichau, then part of Brandenburg-Prussia and today Sulechów in Western Poland (fig. 2).[i] The realm had been devastated by the Thirty Years War, and to re-establish it the “Great Elector” Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia encouraged emigration to his religiously-tolerant realm, including 20,000 Huguenot refugees from France. This wide net may explain why a child born in Poland would become a master silversmith in Augsburg, 650 km / 400 miles away in Bavaria, though the frequency of both Elias Adam’s first and last names makes it difficult to pinpoint where his family may have originated. Interestingly, the most direct route from Sulechów to Augsburg passes through Dresden.
The Free Imperial city of Augsburg was the center of precious metalworking for Northern Europe. It was a center for artists of many trades, particularly printmakers and publishers but also creators of armor, textiles, and scientific instruments. Religiously tolerant since the mid 16th century, its production was destined for rulers, patrons and churches on both sides of the religious divide, doubling their client base and ensuring a constant demand. In Augsburg, boys entering the silver trade had to be “legitimate children of honest fathers” and at least twelve years old, placing the young Elias there about 1681.[ii] Apprentices spent 4 to 6 years serving in a master’s workshop, then became workshop assistants for up to 8 years. By the early 1690s Adam would have achieved the rank of journeyman: fully trained, but required by the Guild to still work for a registered master goldsmith. Stylistic parallels and later collaborations suggest he probably trained in the workshops of Matthäus Baur II (1653-1726, master 1681) or his brother Tobias Baur (c. 1660-1735, master 1685). Elias also married in 1704 a Regina Baur, sometimes described as daughter of Tobias Baur (though Helmut Seling has her coming from a different silversmithing family of the same name).[iii]
The Baur brothers, second-generation Augsburg silversmiths, were particularly known for mounting in silver and silver-gilt precious materials: carved agate, ruby glass, or painted enamels (fig. 3a-b). Rather than useful wares for the table or altar, these were showpieces for princely “kunstkammers” or lavish gifts for Baroque ceremonies and diplomacy. Examples include the sumptuous agate tea service by both Baur brothers in the collection of the Hessisches Landesmuseum, Kassel, an enamel-mounted tea service by Tobias Baur in the Hermitage, and the enamel-mounted toilet service also by Tobias in the Gilbert Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. All of these are dated 1690 to 1700, so created at a time when Elias Adam was not yet a master, and was likely working as a journeyman for one of the brothers.

Fig. 3a: Silver-gilt and enamel toilet box, Tobias Baur, Augsburg, 1701-05. Sotheby’s, Paris, 8 November 2012, lot 210.

Fig. 3b: Ruby-glass cup and cover mounted in silver-gilt, Matthäus Baur II, Augsburg, 1695-1700. Metropolitan Museum, New York, Munsey Fund, 1927; 27.185.309a,b.

The Baur brothers themselves would not have been the ones securing orders from the Russian or Hessian courts. This role was instead taken by “silver dealers” of Augsburg, who had the sophistication and connections to sell luxury goods at important fairs like Leipzig, and to transact with the various Royal, Princely and Ecclesiastic Courts.[iv] Although they might register a silversmith’s mark with the guild, these figures were entrepreneurs, closer to the marchands-merciers of Paris than to craftsmen working at the bench. They were the middlemen: commissioning designs to the latest fashions and to the tastes of their clients, sourcing the exotic raw materials, working with bankers to advance enough raw silver for major works, overseeing the production by the various artists involved, and finally marketing the finished pieces to the European elite (fig. 4a), One well-known dealer from this period was Christoph Von Rad (fig. 4b), an assessor for the City of Augsburg, but also an Imperial Court Jeweler, supplying Augsburg-made luxuries to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI in Vienna. This knowledge of courts, fashions, artists and skills would place the silver dealers in an important role when the emerging Meissen factory turned to Augsburg for assistance.

Fig. 4a: View of a silver dealer’s booth at the Bauernwirtschaft (a Dresden court festival) on 25 June 1709 (detail), attributed to Johann Samuel Mock. Gouache. Dresden, Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen. Dresden, Inv.-Nr. C 5690 (formerly Ca 198, fol. 36) – Brought to the author’s attention by Maureen Cassidy-Geiger.

Fig. 4b: Silver dealer Christoph Von Rad, print by Johann Balthasar Probst, after Gabriel Spitzel, Augsburg, 1730-48.

After more than two decades learning the silversmith’s trade, and particularly how to mount precious materials, Elias Adam became a master in 1703, aged about 34. To achieve this rank, he would have had to submit to the Guild his “masterpieces”, specified as a silver drinking vessel, a seal cut in silver, and probably a gold ring. With these accepted, he could become a master and register the mark with his initials EA; the following year he also married, suggesting that the Baur family would not allow the wedding until Adam had become a full master.

Fig. 5a-b: Clock cabinet mounted in silver, Augsburg, circa 1705. The drawer with an enamel-set toilet service by Elias Adam, Augsburg, 1705 (and an agate bowl by Philip Stenglin, Augsburg, 1701-05). Sotheby’s, New York, Masterpieces from the Time Museum, 2 December 1999, lot 52.

Early in working on his own, Adam collaborated with several silversmiths and other craftsmen on an elaborate silver-mounted clock cabinet of circa 1705 (fig. 5), with Adam supplying the toilet service fitted into the drawer – in a style very similar to that of the Baur workshops. A few years later he collaborated directly with Tobias Baur on the fittings for an impressive Augsburg silver-mounted cabinet of 1708-10 at Schloss Rosenberg, Copenhagen. These services and the similar nécessaires – cased assemblages of toilet sets or travelling table articles - formed an important part of Adam’s early production, usually combining silver-gilt and ruby glass, sometimes with enameled details. Many have lost their enclosing cases or been broken up, but an intact representative example is preserved in the Selim Zilkha collection.[v] A miniature toilet service by Adam is also known,[vi] with Adam marking “toy” versions of candlesticks and a ewer and basin, while he would have subcontracted their full-size counterparts.

Fig. 6a: Agate cup mounted in silver-gilt, Elias Adam, Augsburg, 1705. Sotheby’s, Paris, Les Dillee: Une dynastie d’experts et de collectionneurs, 18-19 March 2015, lot 2.

Fig. 6b: Carved ostrich egg mounted in silver-gilt, Elias Adam, Augsburg, circa 1720-25. Sotheby’s, Mentmore, Mentmore. Volume 2: Works of Art, 19 May 1977, lot 653.

Adam’s other earliest known productions under his own mark are two agate dishes of 1703-05 (fig. 6a).[vii] Stylistically their foliated scroll handles and gadrooned bases repeat 17th century forms, and much of his pre-1720 work continues the 17th century Kunstkammer tradition: ivory tankards, nautilus shells, and ostrich egg cups (fig. 6b).[viii] These are often with older-style mountings, but sometimes displaying a more fashionable French taste, particularly in the chased borders.

Fig. 7: “Four Seasons” enameled liquor service mounted in silver-gilt, Elias Adam, Augsburg, 1707-11, enamels attributed to Johann Jacob Priester I. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Purchase, Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Acquisitions Fund, 2015. 2015.387a–j.

However, Adam’s embrace of newer forms, and the sophistication of his work even shortly after being accepted as a master, is evident in the “Four Seasons” liquor service of 1707-11, now at the Metropolitan Museum (fig. 7). Here, Adam mounted in silver-gilt a painted enamel set of a flask and beakers, attributed to Augsburg artist Johann Jacob Priester I, and reproducing French designs by Pierre Mignard from the Chateau de Saint-Cloud. The chased strapwork borders and neat gadroon rims show the shift towards what will be known as the Régence style. The design was so successful that another of 1712-15 was acquired for the Russian imperial collection and is now in the Hermitage.[ix] Loose enameled goblets and chased lobed plateaus suggest other sets existed that have been broken up,[x] and an etched glass version of 1712-15 was recently on the art market.[xi] Finely-painted enamel tea bowls and saucers mounted by Adam, such as the pair of c. 1708-10 at the Victoria and Albert Museum,[xii] suggest similar tea services were made, paralleling examples from the Baur workshops.

Fig. 8: Chinoiserie lacquer panel tea service mounted in silver-gilt, Elias Adam, Augsburg, circa 1708-10. St. Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum, Inv. Nr. E1649, E1661-62, E1672-E1675.

Another novelty product was lacquer, either imported from the Far East or European-made in Asian taste. Adam’s two tea services mounted with European black lacquer panels, both 1708-10, show his stylistic debt to the Bauer brothers, particularly in the shape of the teapot. They are preserved at Schloss Rosenborg in Copenhagen[xiii] and at the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg (fig. 8)[xiv]; the ruling families of Denmark and Russia – both owners of other Adam works – appreciated these stylish and exotic creations.

Fig. 9: Chinese Export Kangxi period Imari porcelain covered bowl and plate, mounted in silver-gilt as an ecuelle, Elias Adam, Augsburg, 1717. Sotheby’s, Baden-Baden, Die Sammlung der Markgrafen und Grossherzog von Baden, 5-21 October 1995, vol. 4, lot 5328.

While the lacquer panels were European-made to “Oriental” designs, by the 1710s Adam was mounting up imported Asian porcelains. An Adam-mounted Imari porcelain cover survives with the Augsburg mark for 1713-17,[xv] as well as a mounted Imari cup and saucer from 1715-19,[xvi] and a Chinese Export Kangxi period Imari bowl, cover and stand (mounted as an ecuelle) from 1717 (fig. 9).[xvii] This experience with Eastern porcelain placed Elias Adam in a good position to handle the new European porcelain, being refined at Meissen in these same years.

Fig. 10: Frankfurt or Hanau faience jug (Enghalskrug) mounted in silver-gilt, Elias Adam, Augsburg, circa 1720. Sotheby’s, London, 5 July 2006, lot 6.

Adam had other experience mounting ceramics, though, and this too would provide a link with Meissen. From the late 1710s and circa 1720 are known several examples of mounted German faience, with ceramic jug bodies being enhanced by Adam with silver-gilt handle mounts and hinged lids (fig. 10).[xviii] Two of these, including one dated 1717, have designs attributed to the Augsburg workshop of decorator Bartholomäus Seuter.[xix] Very shortly, the Saxon Court would provide plenty of employment for both Seuter and Adam.

The Meissen Era

The ties between the Court in Dresden and the City of Augsburg were closer than ever in 1720, despite the 225 miles / 362 kilometers between them. In anticipation of the 1719 wedding of the Crown Prince of Saxony to the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor (fig. 11), Augustus the Strong determined to create a setting of unparalleled luxury in the Dresden Residence (Residenzschloss). At the Leipzig Easter fairs of 1718 and 1719 – a huge economic engine for Saxony - the king bought massive amounts of silver and placed further orders, acquiring Versailles-worthy silver furniture and commissioning dinner services of hundreds of pieces. Producing these required the combined efforts of many of the small Augsburg silver workshops, coordinated through the silver dealers used to supplying the Saxon Court.

Fig. 11: Wedding of the Crown Prince of Saxony and Grand Duchess Maria Josepha: Banquet in the Corner Parade Hall, Dresden Residenzschloss, 3 September 1719. Copperplate engraving by Antoine Aveline after Ramond Leplat.
Fig. 12: Meissen porcelain Hausmaler coffee pot mounted in silver-gilt, circa 1725, with arms of Marc de Beauveau, created in 1722 Prince de Beauveau Craon. The gilt decoration from the Seuter workshop, Augsburg, the mounts by Elias Adam, Augsburg. Sotheby’s, London, A Tale of Two Cities: Venice and Dresden, Two Private Collections, 9 June 2005, lot 4.

Thus it was probably to these same dealers that Court officials turned when it was decided to improve the gilding on Meissen porcelain by sending it to Augsburg. The factory had already been shipping pieces from Meissen to Dresden for gilding at the workshop of goldsmith George Funcke. As production grew and decoration became more refined with the arrival of Johann Gregorius Höroldt in 1720, other collaborators were needed. The Meissen archives show payments to Bartholomäus Seuter in Augsburg for gilding between September 1722 and May 1723; additional payments would be made in 1724, 1725, and 1729[xx]. Seuter is described in the entries as a “Correspondenten”, or trading partner, suggesting the regular level of business being transacted between his workshop and the Meissen manufactory.

Once fragile porcelain was making the difficult journey to Augsburg for gilding, it made both logistical and financial sense to also have it mounted there as well (fig. 12). The Court silversmiths and jewelers of Dresden were already occupied with orders from the King-Elector (and trying to secure payment for the same), while Augsburg had both the skills and the manpower. As the production at Meissen increased in the 1720s, additional outside resources were needed. Augsburg had over 250 active master goldsmiths in the early 18th century,[xxi] and they knew how to work together for the silver dealers to a specific aesthetic vision. Whether Elias Adam was found through a silver dealer or through the Seuter family, in contracting with him the Saxon Court was allying itself with one of the most prominent and successful “mounting” silversmiths of Augsburg: an established Master goldsmith in his early 50s, with two decades of artistic achievement behind him.

Fig. 13a: Augsburg marks for 1721-25 (coffee pot, Oppenheimer lot 14).

Fig. 13b: Augsburg marks for 1734-36 with A date letter (tankard, Oppenheimer lot 15).

It is difficult to establish exactly when Adam first started working with Meissen porcelain. Often, porcelain cataloguers will date the porcelain or its decoration, but not the mounts – which must necessarily be the final moment in the creation of the piece. If the mounts are identified as Augsburg and by which maker, it allows us to trace the links between Meissen, its various decorators, and its mounters. However, mounts are too often generically dated as “contemporary” with the porcelain, when the exact dating of the particular Augsburg pineapple mark can give even more information (fig. 13a,b). The city marks correspond to usually no more than a 5-year range in the 1720s, and with date letters for the ranges beginning in 1734. Identifying these can greatly help our understanding of how long decorative styles were used or commercially viable, and in certain cases the surprisingly long period that porcelains remained unmounted before being finished for final sale.

Fig. 14a: Meissen porcelain Hausmaler coffee pot mounted in silver-gilt, circa 1721-25. The gilt decoration from an Augsburg workshop, the mounts by Elias Adam, Augsburg, 1721-25. Oppenheimer collection, lot 14.

Fig. 14b: Meissen porcelain Hausmaler coffee pot mounted in silver-gilt, circa 1724-28. The Augsburg decoration possibly by Bartholomäus Seuter, circa 1725, the mounts by Elias Adam, Augsburg, circa 1724-28. Sotheby’s, New York, 16 April 2019, lot 181.

The earliest Adam-mounted Meissen porcelain found so far has Augsburg marks for 1721-25. The Oppenheimer collection includes an Elias Adam-mounted coffee pot with these dates (lot 14, fig. 14a), decorated in Augsburg, perhaps in the Seuter workshops; this dovetails with the Meissen payments to Bartholomäus Seuter in 1722-23 and shows the factory’s strong engagement with Augsburg artisans at this date. Tellingly, after the group of mounted faience jugs of circa 1720, Adam’s production appears to shift almost exclusively to mounting Meissen. Helmut Seling’s lists of Adam’s silverwork,[xxii] which exclude the mounted Meissen pieces, show a gap between 1722 and 1729, while the current author has found only five works by Adam in this period that are not for Meissen (and two of those could date from just before or just after that span).[xxiii]
By contrast, at least 100 Meissen pieces are known marked by Adam from this period, and many more no doubt exist in private and under-published public collections; a certain loss of these fragile pieces over the years must also be considered. With so much Adam-mounted Meissen porcelain of circa 1725 known, and with Augsburg guild restrictions limiting silver workshops to only five or six persons, including the Master,[xxiv] it is not surprising that his establishment had time for little else.

Fig. 15a: Meissen porcelain coffee pot mounted in silver-gilt, circa 1723-26. Decorated probably at Meissen, with gilding added at Augsburg, the mounts by Elias Adam, Augsburg, 1723-26. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Lesley and Emma Sheafer Collection, Bequest of Emma A. Sheafer, 1973, no. 1974.356.424.

Fig. 15b: Meissen porcelain coffee pot mounted in silver-gilt, circa 1725. Decorated probably at Meissen, the mounts by Elias Adam, Augsburg, circa 1725. Sotheby’s, Baden-Baden, Die Sammlung der Markgrafen und Grossherzog von Baden, 7 October 1995, lot 1283.

The Meissen porcelain bodies that Elias Adam was mounting had been decorated in several different places. The largest number have decoration from the Seuter workshops (fig. 12 a-b), especially gold chinoiserie (goldchinesen), underlining their existing relationship, but work is also associated with some pieces by other Augsburg “Hausmalers” (the term for independent decorators) such as the Auffenwerth family (fig. 29). In addition, though, Adam mounted pieces partially decorated at Meissen and gilded in Augsburg (fig. 15a), and even on pieces possibly decorated entirely at Meissen (fig. 15b). Despite these varied origins, for each form – coffee pot, tankard - the silver-gilt mounts follow an established pattern. Adam was not conceiving a new mount each time he began on a piece of Meissen, but rather working to a pre-determined design, no doubt approved by the overseeing Augsburg silver dealer and probably by the Court at Dresden.

Fig. 16: Detail of mount by Elias Adam on the Oppenheimer coffee pot (lot 14), showing engraved leaf-tip tabs.

Coffee pots are the most prevalent Adam-mounted Meissen form; indeed, probably twenty examples, including the related milk pots and chocolate pots, have been on the art market in the last 20 years. The coffee pot mounts of the 1720s are formed as a scalloped silver-gilt rim (fig. 16) usually enhanced with engraving into leaf-tips, folded over the porcelain rim. This “saw-tooth” way of mounting ceramics had been used since at least the late 16th century, when it was used to attach precious and base-metal rims to German stoneware jugs. It is a good way to mount metal to fragile materials, as each “leaf” or “tooth” can be individually pushed down, allowing for careful control to not split either the mount or the base material. It had been used earlier in the 18th century to attach mounts to Böttger stoneware pieces, the gilt or silver leaf-tips contrasting with the red body,[xxv] and the style was continued as the ceramic and the decoration of Meissen became more refined.

Fig. 17a: Meissen porcelain Hausmaler Tea, Coffee and Chocolate Service with fitted presentation box, probably a gift from Augustus the Strong to Victor Amadeus II, King of Sardinia, in 1725. The porcelain 1720-25, decorated in the workshop of Bartolomäus Seuter, Augsburg, circa 1724-25, the coffee pot mounted by Elias Adam, Augsburg. Arnhold Collection, cat. no. 274, 1931.226.

Fig. 17b: Detail of the service, showing the coffee pot mounted and marked by Elias Adam, the teapot with unmarked silver-gilt chain mount, and the unmounted tea caddy.

It is worth remembering in addition that each mounted coffee pot was usually just one piece of a much larger service (fig. 17a), complimented by a porcelain teapot, tea caddy, sugar box, waste bowl, and multiple tea bowls and saucers – and the bulk of the porcelain not enhanced by precious metal.

Fig. 18a: Meissen porcelain sugar box mounted in silver-gilt, circa 1723-24. Decorated at Meissen, the gilding possibly in Augsburg, the mounts by Elias Adam, Augsburg. Sotheby’s, London, 15 July 2004, lot 7.

Fig. 18b: Meissen porcelain cream pot mounted in silver-gilt, 1724-28. Decorated probably at Meissen, possibly by Johann Gregorius Höroldt, the mounts by Elias Adam, Augsburg, 1724-28. Sotheby’s, London, 12 May 2015, lot 14.

Teapots were often mounted just with an unmarked chain securing the cover (fig. 17b), and while the occasional mounted sugar box or cream pot survives (fig. 18a-b), those mounts usually repeat the engraved leaf-tips, matching the larger pots. As on his earlier work with fittings for toilet services, or writing sets in larger cabinets and caskets, Adam’s contribution is a portion of the sumptuous whole.

Fig. 19: Meissen porcelain ewer (schnabelkanne) mounted in silver-gilt, circa 1725. Decorated at Meissen, probably by Höroldt, the gilding possibly Dresden or Augsburg, the mounts by Elias Adam, Augsburg. Sotheby’s, London, 2 December 2008, lot 25.

While the mounts on coffee pots followed the “saw-tooth” tradition used for previous precious materials, Adam was able to draw upon more recent experience for another form. Faience jugs provided the models for tall Meissen ewers (schnabelkanne), whose wide bodies and elongated necks provided plenty of space for both friezes of elegant Chinese figures and displays of gold interlace decoration (fig. 19).[xxvi] Adam mounted them with the stepped domed covers and elongated spouts he had used on tin-glazed earthenware, but the bulbous forms of the silver do not always sit happily with the delicate painted and gilded decoration.

Fig. 20a: Meissen porcelain Hausmaler tankard mounted in silver-gilt, circa 1723-25. The porcelain circa 1720-25, the Augsburg decoration slightly later, the mounts by Elias Adam, Augsburg, 1721-25. Oppenheimer collection, lot 9.

Fig. 20b: Meissen porcelain Hausmaler tankard mounted in silver-gilt, circa 1725. The decoration attributed to Bartolomäus Seuter, Augsburg, the mounts by Elias Adam, Augsburg. Collection of Henry H. Arnhold, given in 2019 to the Frick Collection, New York.

By contrast, Meissen tankards of the 1720s gave the silversmith a chance to display his artistry and mastery of fashionable styles. Some early tankards in Böttger stoneware had ceramic lids to match, and a few porcelain examples are known, but the decision seems to have been made by the early 1720s to finish the form with metal covers instead. The Oppenheimer collection has an early tankard (fig. 20a) with Augsburg goldchinesen decoration and an Elias Adam silver-gilt cover with Augsburg marks for 1721-25; a similar example was in the Arnhold collection (fig. 20b).[xxvii]

Fig. 21: Cover of tankard in fig. 20a, by Elias Adam, Augsburg, 1721-25. Oppenheimer collection, lot 9.

The cover of the Oppenheimer tankard (fig. 21) has Régence-style chased strapwork borders and a central strapwork rosette, all on matted grounds; this decoration shows the French-influenced fashion of Augsburg, which was shared by the Bavarian court at nearby Munich, and by Strasbourg to the west on the French border. While the Oppenheimer tankard has a silver-gilt shell thumbpiece, the Arnhold example is one of the early instances of the unusual double monster-head silver-gilt thumbpiece (see fig. 13b), that will come to be used extensively on Meissen tankards.

Fig. 22a: Meissen porcelain tankard mounted in silver-gilt, with plaque of Africa, circa 1725. The porcelain circa 1723-24, decorated at Meissen, attributed to Höroldt, mounted in Augsburg, circa 1725, maker’s mark illegible but probably Elias Adam or Johann Erhard Heuglin II. Collection of Henry H. Arnhold, given in 2019 to the Frick Collection, New York.

Fig. 22b: Meissen porcelain tankard mounted in silver-gilt, with plaque of America (probably), circa 1730. The porcelain pre-1723; the decoration circa 1730, the mounts by Elias Adam, Augsburg. Sotheby’s, New York, Property from the Collections of Hanns and Elisabeth Weinberg and the Antique Company of New York, 10-11 November 2006, lot 524.

By about 1725, these strapwork-chased silver tankard covers had received a new refinement – the additional of portrait roundels and central figural plaques (figs. 22a-b, 23a-b). The classical portrait roundels were a late Louis XIV French fashion in silver, appearing on the designs by Nicolas Delaunay for a toilet service of 1696 and on silver delivered for the Sun King in 1702.[xxviii] They were still in fashion in Paris into the early 1720s, as seen on a designs of 1723-24 for the young Louis XV (again by Delaunay).[xxix] Versions of these classical head roundels, evoking ancient coins, appear on pieces by many Augsburg makers, suggesting they were available for purchase ready-finished, thus allowing silversmiths to easily add a modern French touch to their creations.

Fig. 23a: Plaque of Africa, from the tankard in fig. 24a.

Fig. 23b: Plaque of Asia, from the tankard in fig. 24b.

The chased plaques of putti as the Four Continents were also in circulation, as they too appear on pieces by several different Augsburg silversmiths.[xxx] Interestingly, only Asia, Africa (figs. 23a-b), and America have been found topping Meissen tankards, not Europe; apparently their exoticism was considered most appropriate to the chinoiserie painted decoration.
It is important to note that Elias Adam was not the only silversmith finishing Meissen tankards with these distinctive covers: the central plaque, portrait roundels, and double monster-head thumbpiece. The same model was being executed by Johann Erhard Heuglin II (fig. 24a-b). Heuglin (1687-1757) was from a prominent Augsburg silversmithing family, and his father had supplied silver for the Dresden Court festivities of 1719.[xxxi] This explains why, though only made a master in 1717, the younger Heuglin was named goldsmith to Emperor Charles VI as early as 1721. From the beginning he had a large and impressive production, and he used the castings seen on the Meissen tankards earlier on other pieces: the profile heads on covered beakers,[xxxii] and a full set of the Four Continents plaques on an impressive basin and ewer of 1715-25.[xxxiii] Perhaps the younger silversmith first employed these fashionable French-style accents, and Elias Adam – twenty years older and trained originally in the styles of the 17th century – was instructed to follow suit. The combination evokes the hand of an Augsburg silver dealer in concert with the court at Dresden, picking the best from each artisan and overseeing the final, consistent production in a fashionable taste. However up-to-date, though, no other silversmith would mount up the sheer quantity of Meissen that was done by Elias Adam.

Fig. 24a: Meissen porcelain tankard mounted in silver-gilt, with plaque of Africa, circa 1723-25. Decorated in the manner of Höroldt, the mounts by Johann Erhard Heuglin II, Augsburg, 1721-25. Sotheby’s, London, 9 June 2015, lot 8.

Fig. 24b: Meissen porcelain Hausmaler tankard mounted in silver-gilt, with plaque of Asia, 1724-28. Decorated in the Seuter workshop, Augsburg, the mounts by Johann Erhard Heuglin II, Augsburg, 1724-28. Sotheby’s, London, 9 June 2015, lot 3.

The “Continent and profile medallion” tankard covers were popular for many years; Adam examples exist with Augsburg marks of 1729-33 and painted decoration of circa 1730.[xxxiv] Despite that, his relationship with the Meissen factory seems to have changed about 1729. It is probably not a coincidence that this is the last year for which Rückert found archival entries for Bartholomäus Seuter.[xxxv] Meissen could do more and more of their gilding at the factory, saving itself the long journey to and from Augsburg, and probably also the fees charged by the silver dealer middlemen. After almost a decade of devoting his workshop to mounting Meissen, Elias Adam would have to have to broaden his practice. Meissen would continue to play an important part, but no longer would it be the almost exclusive object of his production.

Later Career

Fig. 25: Not Elias Adam - Meissen porcelain tankard mounted in white silver, late 1730s. Decorated in the factory, mounted probably in Dresden, the mark possibly for 1738. Collection of Henry H. Arnhold, sold Sotheby’s, New York, 24 October 2019, lot 377.

After about 1729, not only was Elias Adam not mounting Meissen tankards, but with the Augsburg connection broken, the whole spirit of their covers changes (fig. 25). Instead of the French-influenced style of Augsburg, the styles of Eastern Germany and the Baltic regions came to the fore – not surprising for a court based in Dresden and Warsaw. The South German taste for gilding was often superseded by the North German taste for white silver. The chased central figural plaques gave way to inset coins and medals, a style particularly associated with Berlin. The sophisticated double-monster-head thumbpiece was often replaced by large spherical thumbpiece, a Baltic or Scandinavian touch. Lastly, the low domed cover with a curved edge used on Adam and Heuglin’s work was replaced with more fashionable stepped domed covers, interrupted by wavy vertical flutes hinting at the rococo.

Fig. 26a: Ruby glass travelling liquor set mounted in silver-gilt, Elias Adam, Augsburg, 1729-33. Sotheby’s, London, Dr. Heller’s Lexicon, 4 December 2012, lot 41.

Fig. 26b: Carved ivory tankard mounted in silver-gilt, Elias Adam, Augsburg, circa 1730. Sotheby’s, Paris, 15 April 2010, lot 221.

This was how Meissen went on without Adam, but how did Adam – now over 60 years old - go on without Meissen? He returned to the work he had been doing a decade before, with some of the same materials. An Adam-mounted ruby-glass travelling liquor set (fig. 26a) exists with Augsburg marks for 1729-33,[xxxvi] but has few parallels and appears to be a vestigial example of a former taste. A mounted ivory tankard recently on the art market (fig. 26b) is a good summary of Elias Adam’s work at this moment: a 17th century form with a handle model of the 1680s, chased strapwork borders of the early 1720s, the double-headed monster thumbpiece used on Meissen tankards of the late 1720s, and a stepped and fluted domed cover shape of circa 1730. Similar and from the same date is the only piece of Adam’s work recorded in the Green Vaults, Dresden: a double cup mounted with an ivory sleeve, marked for 1729-33.[xxxvii] This further indicates that Adam came to the attention of Dresden either through an Augsburg silver dealer or through the Seuter connection, and not through previous work for Saxon Court.

Fig. 27: Meissen porcelain Hausmaler tankard mounted in silver-gilt, circa 1725-36. The porcelain circa 1725-30, the decoration slightly later, probably Seuter workshop, Augsburg, the mounts Elias Adam, Augsburg, 1734-36. Oppenheimer collection, lot 15.

The painted enamels with which Adam had worked around 1710 were still popular, having evolved with the Régence aesthetic; Adam mounted a beaker formerly in the Rothschild collections in 1729-30[xxxviii] and two more in Russian collections in 1731-33.[xxxix] He mounted a carved ivory plaque as a snuffbox in 1732-24,[xl] and after a decade of near-eclipse of his work in plain silver, several écuelles and stands survive from the early 1730s, probably originally fitted into travelling toilet services.[xli]

Fig. 28a: Meissen porcelain Hausmaler coffee pot mounted in silver, circa 1715-41. The porcelain circa 1715-20, the decoration circa 1730-40, possibly by Franz Ferdinand Mayer, Pressnitz (Bohemia), the mounts by Elias Adam, Augsburg, 1739-41. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Lesley and Emma Sheafer Collection, Bequest of Emma A. Sheafer, 1973; 1974.356.474.

Fig. 28b: Meissen porcelain Hausmaler coffee pot mounted in white silver, circa 1730-33. Decorated in Schwarzlot and silver in Augsburg, circa 1730, the mounts by Elias Adam, Augsburg, 1731-33. Sotheby’s, London, 15 July 2004, lot 28.

There seems to have been a backlog of Meissen pieces mostly decorated in Augsburg, that still needed mounts. An example of this is a goldchinesen tankard in the Oppenheimer collection (lot 15, fig. 27a); the porcelain was made at Meissen around 1725-30, the decoration - probably by the Seuter workshop – was done in Augsburg slightly later, and the Adam mounts are marked for 1734-36, unmistakable with the first of the Augsburg date letters. On the cover (fig. 27b), Adam has continued the chased Régence strapwork and double monster-head thumbpiece, but has shed the figural and medallion head plaques; another suggestion that these did not originate with his workshop. An even more extreme example is a coffee pot at the Metropolitan Museum (fig. 28a) with porcelain of circa 1715-20 and Adam mounts of 1739-41, a production of over two decades.

Adam also continued to mount up some of the smaller number pieces that were sent to Augsburg to be decorated around 1730-35. A refined example is a black-enameled (Schwarzlot) and silvered – rather than gilded - chinoiserie coffee pot, decorated in Augsburg around 1730, where Adam has switched to white silver mounts to compliment the painted decoration (fig. 28). Another group decorated has Watteau scenes in Schwarzlot highlighted in flesh tones; the decoration is assigned to Abraham Seuter and the mounts are by Elias Adam, showing the continued close ties between these two Augsburg workshops.[xlii]

Fig. 29: Meissen porcelain Hausmaler presentation tea and coffee service, circa 1725-31. The porcelain circa 1725, the decoration by the Auffenwerth workshop, Augsburg, circa 1731, the silver-gilt spoons by Elias Adam, Augsburg, 1731-33. Sotheby’s, London, Treasures, 10 December 2020, lot 11.

The diminution of Adam’s role with Meissen, though, can be seen in an extensive 18-piece cased tea and coffee service (fig. 29). Although decorated in Augsburg by the Auffenwerth family, the coffee pot is unmounted, the teapot and milk pot have chained covers that he could have produced, but the only pieces bearing his mark are six silver-gilt spoons of 1731-33.
The Court at Dresden was still collaborating with Augsburg silversmiths in the early 1730s, but similarly to how they had brought the gilding back to the factory, pieces requiring plain mountings were no longer being shipped over two hundred miles each way. Augsburg was instead contracted to create fantastic set-pieces that could only be achieved with their skill, like the silver and porcelain tea and chocolate services presented to the courts of Munich and St. Petersburg, [xliii] or the set of four silver-gilt guéridons inset with plaques of Meissen porcelain in the Mirror Cabinet of the Munich Residenz[xliv]. However, in the chocolate service now at the Hermitage,[xlv] Adam was just one of four Augsburg silversmiths involved, and the Böttger-shape bodies of the porcelain suggest it could have started as an earlier finished service, enhanced about 1730 with an elaborate stand to make a grander presentation.

Fig. 30a: Chinese Export porcelain famille rose wine cooler (of a pair) mounted in white silver, circa 1730-35. The porcelain circa 1735, the mounts by Elias Adam, Augsburg, probably 1735-36. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 2002; 2002.238.2.

Fig. 30b: Meissen porcelain cream pot mounted in silver-gilt, 1735-36. The porcelain circa 1735, the smooth mount by Elias Adam, Augsburg, 1735-36. Sotheby’s, Paris, 17 May 2011, lot 187.

With fewer Meissen porcelain bodies to work on, in 1732-33 Adam was even mounting up Chinese Export porcelain mugs into tankards.[xlvi] His expertise with porcelain was still appreciated, as can be seen on a pair of wine coolers circa 1735-36 now in the Metropolitan Museum (fig. 30a). The Chinese Export porcelain is to a modern European form and must have just arrived off the ship; Adam’s white silver mount shows an awareness of Parisian work of the 1720s and early 1730s, and was probably commissioned by an Augsburg silver dealer with French connections and a French-conscious clientele. In his mid-60s, Elias Adam was still able to respond to changing taste and evolve his craft.
By the mid-1730s a stylistic advancement allows us to identify some of Adam’s last work for Meissen, even without knowing the specific Augsburg date mark. Instead of the saw-tooth edged mountings he had used on pots for over a decade, Adam refined it to a smoothly-fitted lip mount, less distracting and allowing greater focus on the painted decoration of the porcelain. The new smooth mount may have first been used on cream pots, as several examples exist with goldchinesen or Höroldt-style painting of circa 1725-30.[xlvii] Its use continued as Meissen decoration evolved, giving a sophisticated touch to a kakiemon-decorated cream pot marked 1735-36 (fig.30b).

Fig. 31a-b: Meissen porcelain green-ground tea service, circa 1735-39. Hot water jug with smooth mount and six teaspoons by Elias Adam, Augsburg, 1737-39. Sotheby’s, London, 1 November 2006, lot 9.

The new smooth mount appears on several coffee pots of circa 1735 with four-lobed painted reserves enclosed by ground colors – purple, yellow, orange[xlviii] – as well as at least one pot with white-ground chinoiseries, decorated probably a decade before but mounted by Adam in 1735-36.[xlix] A cased service with Asian-style flowers (indianische Blumen) on a rare green ground (fig. 31) has a smooth mount to the hot water pot; it and the six teaspoons, all marked by Adam for 1737-39, show that he continued to work with Meissen, even if sparingly, into the latter part of the decade.
Elias Adam would have been approaching seventy years old in the late 1730s, and it is not surprising to see fewer surviving items from his workshop. Many show a continued production for nécessaires, with old-fashioned chased strapwork borders decorating the same forms he had been making for over 30 years: a single setting of flatware, a beaker, an egg cup, a double spice box.[l]

Fig. 32a: Silver trembleuse, stamped by Elias Adam, Augsburg, 1745. Fitted with a Meissen porcelain covered chocolate cup of circa 1725-28 and the Nuremburg engraved glass beaker of circa 1720-30 (associated, but typical of what would have been used). Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York, 2017.
Fig. 32b: Silver trembleuse, by Johann Jakob Adam, Augsburg, 1751-53. Fitted with a Meissen cup with military scenes after Rugendas, circa 1750. Sotheby’s, London, Dr. Heller’s Lexicon, 4 December 2012, lot 20A.

Surprisingly, from about 1745 - the year of his death - there are several pieces bearing an Elias Adam mark, but like nothing he had ever made before. These are new forms, in white silver and in a fully rococo vocabulary: a triangular trembleuse stand (fig. 32a), with holders for a porcelain chocolate cup and water glass flanking a stand for sweetmeats, and a double cruet stand with central raised lemon holder.[li] Foreign to Elias Adam’s oeuvre, these are shapes and a style that his son Johann Jakob Adam would later make his own. Born about 1720, J.J. Adam would have entered his father’s workshop about 1732, and as the son of a registered master goldsmith, was allowed to spend shorter periods as an apprentice and workshop assistant. Then in his early 20s, he could have been acting as a journeyman in his aging father’s workshop by 1743-45, in time to introduce these new forms and decorative vocabulary. Elias Adam died in 1745, and his son was not received as a master goldsmith until 1748 - suggesting that the Guild thought Johann Jakob had not yet spent enough time as a journeyman. Once accepted, though, the younger Adam would make rococo naturalism his signature style, and be known particularly for trembleuses (fig. 32b) – usually fitted with covered Meissen chocolate cups, and thereby continuing the relationship between this Augsburg family and the Dresden factory into its fourth decade.
Elias Adam was trained in the 17th century Kunstkammer tradition, mounting up rare and precious materials for the elite of Northern Europe. His skills were called upon by the Court of Dresden, through Augsburg silver dealers, to mount the newest, most exotic material of day: real European porcelain born of the arcanum. Together, they conceived a sophisticated moment of Meissen in the chinoiserie taste, enhanced in Augsburg with Régence silver-gilt mounts, and still sought by collectors two - and now three - centuries after it was created.

The author would like to thank Maureen Cassidy-Geiger for her guidance on this study, and Morgan McIntosh for her assistance.

[i] Helmut Seling, Die Augsburger Gold- und Silberschmiede 1529-1868, Munich, CH Beck, 2007, p. 459.
[ii] Lorenz Seelig, Silver and Gold: Courtly Splendor from Augsburg, Munich, 1995, p. 11.
[iii] Helmut Seling, op. cit.
[iv] This summary of the silver dealers’ role is largely drawn from Seelig, op. cit., pp. 10-11.
[v] Augsburg marks for 1713-17, see Timothy Schroder, Renaissance and Baroque Silver, Mounted Porcelain and Ruby Glass from the Zilkha Collection, 2012, no. 88, pp. 312-13.
[vi] Helmut Seling, Die Kunst der Augsburger Goldschmiede 1529-1868, Munich, CH Beck, 1980, no. 949, in a private collection.
[vii] Sotheby’s, Paris, Les Dillée: Une dynastie d’experts et de collectionneurs, 18-19 March 2015, lot 2, and Christie’s , Paris, Collection Yves Saint Laurent et Pierre Bergé, 24 February 2009, lot 133; other mounted agate cups are in the Pommersfelden Collection.
[viii] Ivory tankards: one of 1707 Lempertz, Cologne, 14 May 2018, lot 721; one of c. 1710 Sotheby’s, Paris, 15 April 2010, lot 221; and one of c. 1703-1712 in the Thomson Collection, Art Gallery of Ontario.
Nautilus shell: 1711-15, Christie’s , Paris, Collection Yves Saint Laurent et Pierre Bergé, 24 February 2009, lot 188.
Ostrich eggs: 1717-21, Christie’s , Paris, Collection Yves Saint Laurent et Pierre Bergé, 24 February 2009, lot 187; and Sotheby’s, Mentmore, 19 May 1977, lot 653.
[ix] A third is also in the Hermitage, but with a probably replaced central cut-glass flask.
[x] Including a lobed plateau of 1703-05 in the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, illustrated on Wikimedia Commons, and another of 1708-10, Sotheby’s, London, 4 June 2008, lot 245. Enameled beakers include one of 1710-12, Sotheby’s, London, 27 February-1 March, 1990, lot 107; two of 1710-12 in the Stadt Kunstsammlungen Augsburg, see Helmut Seling 1980, no. 1050-1052; another of 1711-15 with a scene identical to one of the preceding but different borders, Schroder op. cit., no. 43, pp. 193-4; and a pair of c. 1710-20, one of the enamels signed IIP for Johann Jakob Priester, ibid., no. 44, pp. 194-5.
[xi] Nagel Auction, Stuttgart, sale 719, 25 February 2015.
[xii] V&A, 1937&A-1898; a related saucer was sold Christie’s, Amsterdam, 9 December 2007, lot 160.
[xiii] See Schwartz Porcelain, Hirmer, Munich, 2003, fig. 2
[xiv] Lorenz Seelig, op. cit. no. 112, pp. 425-26.
[xv] Van Ham Kunstauktionen, Cologne, 12 May 2012, lot 1275.
[xvi] Dorotheum, Vienna, 29 June 2020, lot 12.
[xvii] Sotheby’s, Die Sammlung der Markgrafen und Grossherzog von Baden, Baden-Baden, 5-21 October 1995, vol. 4, lot 5328, resold Christie’s, London, 9 May 2006, lot 160.
[xviii] Sotheby’s, Olympia, 5 July 2006, lot 6, and Tennant’s, Leyburn, 13 July 2012, lot 203.
[xix] Christie’s, London, 26 June 2005, lot 70, and Neuminster, Munich, 29 June, 2005, lot 129.
[xx] Rainer Rückert, Biographische Daten, 1990, p. 194.
[xxi] Lorenz Seelig, op. cit., p. 12
[xxii] Helmut Seling, 1980, pp. ; addendum, pp. 60-61; Helmut Seling 2007, pp. 459-462
[xxiii] Comprising: a mounted agate cup at Pommersfelden, that Seling dates to 1722-26 (but Adam’s other mounted hardstone cups in this collection are pre-1720); an ecuelle and cover of 1724-28, Sotheby’s, New York, 27 October 2017, lot 8; a “cream garniture” of 1725 which may be a caster and mustard pot, Lempertz, Cologne, 29 May 2020, lot 727; a silver bust of 1727 in the Dommuseum Frankfurt, which is otherwise completely foreign to Adam’s oeuvre, and a trembleuse of c. 1725-30 in the Giuseppe Gianetti Museum, Saronno, which is likely to be circa 1730.
[xxiv] Lorenz Seelig, op. cit., pp. 11-12
[xxv] For instance on a Böttger teapot with gilt-metal mount in the Alamy photo archive, a Böttger tankard with gilt-metal mount sold Bonham’s, London, 20 July 2020, lot 7, and a Böttger tankard with white silver mount, with Röbbig, Munich.
[xxvi] Adam-mounted examples were sold Christie’s, London, 7 July 2002, lot 11, and Sotheby’s, London, 2 December 2008, lot 35; another example was formerly in the Rothschild collection.
[xxvii] In addition to the Oppenheimer and Arnhold examples illustrated, another Adam tankard with just chased decoration to the cover – no applied plaques – is in the Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig, Inv.-Nr. 1925.28.
[xxviii] Collection Tessin-Harleman: THC 851 and 818 respectively, see Versailles à Stockholm, Institut Culturel Suédois, Paris, September-October 1985, no. Q5 p. 203 and no. N8 p. 182.
[xxix] Jacques Helft, French Master Goldsmiths and Silversmiths, Connaissance des Arts (French & European Publications), New York, 1966, p. 92, fig. 2.
[xxx] Including Johann Erhard Heuglin II (see following paragraph and a basin, 1724-28, Kunsthaus Lempertz KG, Cologne, 17 November 2017, lot 1647); Gottlieb Menzel, Augsburg (ewer and basin, 1729-30, Christie’s, London, 14 June 2005, lot 74); and Johann Ludwig Schoap I, Augsburg (salver on foot, c. 1725-30, Auktionhaus Dr. Fishcher, Heilbronn, 7 December 2019, lot 1897)
[xxxi] Dirk Syndram, Jutta Kappel and Ulrike Weinhold, The Baroque Treasury at the Grünes Gewölbe Dresden, 2006, pp. 96-97.
[xxxii] Examples include a covered beaker of 1721-25, Sotheby’s, London, Spetchley: Property from the Berkeley Collection, 11 December 2019, lot 149; and one of 1722-26 in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 287&A-1902.
[xxxiii] Art Institute of Chicago, 1972.759a-b; Purchased with funds provided by the Antiquarian Society, S. J. Phillips, and Frank Partridge, Ltd.; gift in honor of Charles C. Cunningham; Emily Crane Chadbourne Fund.
[xxxiv] See example Christie’s, London, 3 July 2017, lot 157, with Adam marks for 1729-33, and the example from the Collection of Hanns and Elizabeth Weinberg, Sotheby’s, New York 10-11 October 2006, lot 524, the date mark indistinct but the painting of circa 1730.
[xxxv] Rückert op. cit.
[xxxvi] Sotheby’s, London, Dr. Heller’s Lexicon, 4 December 2012, lot 41
[xxxvii] Helmut Seling, 2007, p. 460, no. dd.
[xxxviii] Christie’s, London, 7 July 1999, lot 131.
[xxxix] Both Hermitage museum, dated 1731-33, see Helmut Seling, 1980, pl. XXVIII and no. 1054.
[xl] Christie’s, London, 5 November 2008, lot 89.
[xli] Helmut Seling, 1980, nos. 748, 952, and 965, and Christie’s, Amsterdam, 14 February 2006, lot 1157. A silver kettle on lampstand of 1729-33 with Adam’s mark, sold Christie’s, London, 19 May 2015, lot 67, is completely foreign to Adam’s other pieces and probably represents a subcontract to another silversmith.
[xlii] Including two coffee pots, Christie’s, Geneva, 16 May 1994, lot 67 and Christie’s, New York, 17 October 2017, lot 764, and an ecuelle and stand, Bonham’s, London, 3 December 2020, lot 60.
[xliii] Two in the Residenzmuseum, Munich, and the tea service formerly in Russia now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
[xliv] See Lorenz Selig, “Le Mobilier d’Argent d’Augsbourg” in Quand Versailles Etait Meublé d’Argent, Château de Versailles, November 2007-March 2008, p. 95, fig. 78.
[xlv] Helmut Seling, Silber und Gold: Augsburger Goldschmiedekunst für die Höfe Europas, Munich, 1994, no. 113, pp. 427, 429.
[xlvi] Helmut Seling, 1980, no. 1013.
[xlvii] Goldchinesen: Sotheby’s, New York, 26 September 1989, lot 7; Höroldt style: Christie’s, London, 17 October 1977, lot 10; Antiques Metz GmbH, Heidelberg, 23 October 2010, lot 455; and Koller Auctions, Zurich, 23 March 2015, lot 1707.
[xlviii] Purple-gound pot: Antiques Metz GmbH, Heidelberg, 24 October 2009, lot 237; Yellow-ground pots: Christie’s, London, 10 June 2010, lot 54, and Antiques Metz GmbH, Heidelberg, 7 May 2011, lot 570; Orange-ground pot: Koller Auctions, Zurich, 23 March 2009, lot 1715.
[xlix] Bonham’s, London, 7 December 2011, lot 140.
[l] Flatware 1737, Koller Auctions, Zurich, 19 September 2011, lot 1635; beaker 1737-39, Helmut Seling 1980 no. 1018; egg cup 1739-41, Dorotheum, Vienna, 25 November 2014, lot 40; spice box 1741, Lempertz, Cologne, 19 May 2016, lot 322.
[li] Klaus Pechstein, Schäatze Deutscher Goldschmiedekunst von 1500 bis 1920, Berlin, Arenhövel, 1992, no. 253, p. 332.

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