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English Furniture

The Power of Patronage

We are often fortunate enough to spend time admiring unique works of art, astonished by their beauty and accomplishment, but not always do we acknowledge what can often be the driving force behind the creation of such an object, the patron. Throughout history it has not purely been the artist or artisan who has had a considerable impact on the art of the day, the patron very often dictated the styles and the taste of the moment.  This all important piece of information is frequently absent and we are left to imagine the story behind a work’s creation. The Treasures sale however enables one a glimpse back in history to the Royal and Noble houses of Europe, an opportunity to stop and consider what was behind the grand facades, the objects that lived with the very kings, queens and princes who enabled their creation.

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A GERMAN PARCEL-GILT SILVER DRINKING CUP BY DANIEL MÄNNLICH, BERLIN, CIRCA 1696, ESTIMATE £250,000-350,000.

Research on these extraordinary pieces has unearthed exciting provenance and commissions by leading patrons of the time, patrons who have effectively shaped European history. The focus of this year’s sale is certainly the unrivalled patronage bestowed by the Royal House of Hohenzollern throughout several centuries, and represented by a unique ensemble of incomparable silver, including the parcel-gilt silver drinking cup in the form of the sixty-six point stag commissioned by Friedrich III, Elector of Brandenburg, or the candelabra from the Throne Room of the Berliner Schloss commissioned by Friedrich Wilhelm I, King of Prussia, in 1729-33.

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A PAIR OF ROYAL GERMAN SILVER SIX-LIGHT CANDELABRA BY JOHANN ENGELBRECHT, AUGSBURG, 1729-33, ESTIMATE £800,000-1,200,000.

Another instance of a Prussian King’s patronage is provided by the exquisite gilt-brass mounted lacquer cabinet on stand made by Gérard Dagly, circa 1695 for Friedrich I, probably one of the cabinets intended to house the Royal collection of coins and until recently presumed lost. Also included in the Treasures sale are collector’s items, objects that have continued to appeal to connoisseurs throughout the centuries, such as the “objects of wonder” in turned ivory that would have had pride of place in a now unknown Prince’s baroque Kunstkammer. Further demonstrating the important patronage of German sovereigns is the Berlin K.P.M. porcelain Royal “Müncher” vase ordered by Firedrich Wilhelm II, King of Prussia, for Friederike Karoline Wilhlemine, Dowager Queen of Bavaria, around 1833.

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A ROYAL GILT-BRASS MOUNTED LACQUER CABINET ON STAND BY GÉRARD DAGLY, BERLIN, CIRCA 1695, ESTIMATE £60,000-100,000.

No clearer is the role of the patron than in the remarkable bureau-cabinet commissioned by Queen Sophie Magdalene of Denmark-Norway around 1750. Lavishly decorated and fitted with gilt-bronze mounts of unrivalled quality, the panel depicts the King who was recently deceased and his adoring Queen on the steps below. It is a testament not only to the great esteem in which the queen held her husband, but also their central role in transforming Copenhagen into a fervent centre for the arts.

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A DANISH GILT-BRONZE MOUNTED MARQUETRY BUREAU CABINET ATTRIBUTED TO DIETRICH SCHAEFFER, CIRCA 1750, ESTIMATE £250,000-350,000.

However, it is not only continental Europe where the power of patronage is illustrated within the sale. Whether at home or on the grand-tour, the English have shaped the decorative arts throughout the centuries. A unique moment in the English history of collecting is provided by the monumental group of the Three Graces by Edward Hodges Baily (1788-1867), created for Joseph Neeld at Grittleton House, echoing the celebrated versions carved by Antonio Canova (1757-1822) and Bertel Thorvaldsen (1797-1838) this and other commissions by Neeld quite literally saved Baily from the debtor’s prison or his talent would have been lost.

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THE FETTERCAIRN COMMODES. ESTIMATE £250,000-400,000.

The influence of the Englishman in Europe is most notable in a pair of Italian gilt-bronze mounted marquetry commodes (Lot 27) known as the Fettercairn Commodes, acquired by the Forbses of Pitsligo who were financial titans of their day and avid Grand tourists and could just as easily have purchased an Anglo-Italian masterpiece by John Deere (1759-1798), the white marble relief  of Eleanor and Edward, (Lot 35), collected by art historians, the late Hugh Honour and John Fleming, who together wrote the famous, A World History of Art, with their ownership of the relief ultimately testament to both its quality and historical importance.

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JOHN DEARE, ELEANOR AND EDWARD. ESTIMATE £200,000-300,000.

These, and many other of the works of art offered in this year’s Treasures, provide a fascinating glimpse into the vanished world of courtly and private patronage, central to the development of Western arts and aesthetics.

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