the chessboard of silver and silver-gilt mounted pewter, brass, copper, mother of pearl and stained ivory inlaid boulle marquetry, the whole decorated with panels of chinoiseries, exotic animals and mythological creatures with a velvet-lined drawer in either side probably in jacaranda wood, with Meissen porcelain Pagoda figurines as Kings and Queens, the `black' set of pieces in aventurine glass with silver-gilt mounts and tortoiseshell bases; the bishops with blackamoor busts in jet and the knights with horses' heads in ebony; the `white' set in mother-of-pearl with gold mounts, the finials of the castles in rock crystal, the kings and queens as seated Chinese men (Pagoden) in white Meissen porcelain, the `white' pair with silver crowns with large simulated and seed pearls; the black pair with faces and crowns of aventurine glass, the carcass below one drawer with an 18th century ink inscription `Rohte, the other `Gelbe' ; in a later walnut case with brass handles
By repute Frederick Augustus III (1750-1827), Elector of Saxony, who according to family tradition presented it to Comte Louis Gabriel du Buat-Nançay (1732-1787)
Louis-Paul Le Cordier Bigars Aglaé le Cordier Bigars de la Londe
Henri de Gallye d'Hybouville
Roger de Gallye d'Hybouville
Thence by descent
Property of a European Private Collector
G. de Bellaigue, The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor, Vol. II, Fribourg, 1974, p. 550, no. 114, illustrated p. 553.
C. Boltz, ,Figürliches aus Meissen vor Kändler', in Keramos, no. 21, July 2008, p. 16-32, figs. 4-8.
T.H. Clarke, The Rhinoceros from Dürer to Stubbs 1515-1799, London, 1986, pp. 120-121, figs. 91-83. Goldschmidt and Schmidt, Catalogue, Die Sammlung Wilhelm Gumprecht, Numbers 347 and 348.
R. Rückert, Meissener Porzellan 1710-1810, Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich, 1966, cat nos. 793, 833ff.
G. Himmelheber, Ulrich Schneider ed., exhib. cat., Schönes Schach. Die Spiele des Bayerischen Nationalmuseums in München und des Germanischen Nationalmuseums in Nürnberg, Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, 1988, cat. nos. 24 & 26.
C. Kowalski, Die Augsburger Prunkkabinette mit Uhr von Heinrich Eichler d. Ä. (1637-1719) und seiner Werkstatt, Berlin 2011.
F. Michler, Konservierung und Restaurierung von Kistlerarbeiten mit Silberfolienbelag, (Diplomarbeit am Institut für Technologie der Malerei an der Staatlichen Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart, vorgelegt am 2. May 1997.W. Seipel ed., exhib. cat., Spielwelten der Kunst. Kunstkammerspiele, Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, 1998.
P. von Stetten the Younger, Kunst-, Gewerb- und Handwerks-Geschichte der Reich-Stadt Agusburg, vol. I, Augsburg 1779.
U. Pietsch, K. Jakobsen ed., exhib. cat. Frühes Meissener Porzellan. Kostbarkeiten aus deutschen Privatsammlungen, Hetjens-Museum, Düsseldorf 1997, p. 116-117, no. 80 (Private Collection).
We would like to thank Dr. Max Tillmann for his research and attribution of this piece and for writingthe following footnote on the Augsburg Silberkistler and Boulle technique. Also Dr. Jutta Kappel of the Grünes Gewölbe, Dresden, Gerhard Röbbig, Dr. Sigrid Sangl of the Bavarian Nationalmuseum, Munich, and Dr. Alfred Ziffer for discussing specific issues arising during the course of Dr Tillmann's research.
The Augsburg chessboard, Silberkistler and Boulle technique:
Chessboards and other board games were an integral part of princely treasuries and Kunstkammern. They were also an indispensable part of the collector's cabinets, the Kunstschränke of the Baroque age. The German penchant for Kunstkammer objects in precious materials, executed to the highest standards, is epitomised by the present chess set. It reflects the interests and passions of its illustrious original owner and the enthusiasm for Chinoiseries and the exoticism of the East. The use of Chinoiseries and European mythological figures pays homage to the Oriental origin of chess and the erudition of the players and owners.
The delicate engraving and charming pictorial marquetry on this magnificent chessboard are virtuoso examples of the Boulle technique as practised by Augsburg craftsmen. Augsburg cabinet-making was closely intertwined with the city's role as a thriving trading and financial centre. The extensive trade connections in Augsburg allowed the local craftsmen to acquire many rare and exotic materials for manufacture. The branch offices of Augsburg merchants at international ports, such as Venice and Antwerp, imported tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl from around the world. In Augsburg from the 1670s, tortoiseshell and metal Boulle marquetry increasingly supplanted earlier 17th century ebony veneered furniture. Particularly characteristic of early 18th-century Augsburg production is the colourful combination of brown tortoiseshell, coloured green ivory and engraved mother-of-pearl making this a most sumptuous commission. The celebrated Silberkistler, a silver and wood joiner/cabinet-maker, were responsible for the production of such furniture with costly marquetry veneers. According to the chronicler of the Augsburg history of craftsmanship, Paul von Stetten the Younger, the Silberkistler were not considered to be 'ordinary craftsmen', but were counted among the artists of the city. The Silberkistler of Augsburg specialised in costly veneers particularly of gold and silver inlaid into tortoiseshell. Stetten referred to their production of furniture as being not only of wood-marquetry but 'mostly with tortoiseshell-panels, mother-of-pearl, ivory and the like.' (Stetten, op. cit., p. 118).
Based on the recent study of Christine Kowalski op. cit, an attribution for the present chess set can be proposed. Kowalski succeeded in linking a prestigious group of Augsburg altar clocks to their maker, the Silberkistler Heinrich Eichler the Elder (1636-1719). This identification was achieved based on a newly discovered engraving depicting an altar clock, which the cabinet-maker published as his own work (Kowalski, op. cit., illustrated p. 101). Eichler the Elder, born 1636 in Liebstadt close to Meissen, was a master cabinet-maker from 1664. Registered in Augsburg from 1677, his furniture production is characterised by the use of coloured green ivory and for the inlay on a wooden carcass of silver foil and tortoiseshell on gilt brass foil and/or on red vermilion. His style of marquetry is exemplified by roughly a dozen known altar clocks in collections, such as Copenhagen, Rosenburg Palace (two examples), the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg or the Berlin Kunstgewerbemuseum, see ibid., illustrated p. 30-42, and a garniture of table and guéridons, Augsburg (c. 1711-1715) in the Badisches Landesmuseum at Karlsruhe. It has marquetry on the table top depicting horsemen very close to those on the drawer of this chessboard. This garniture Kowalski, convincingly attributes to Heinrich Eichler the Elder, his pupil Johannes Mann and further craftsmen, exhibits a complex marquetry of Chinoiserie and exotic motifs of silver and ivory inlaid into tortoiseshell.
The manufacture of these magnificent pieces of furniture draws attention to a working process that can be compared to the structures of an early form of production which included a centralised workshop organisation with ten or more craftsmen, based on the division of labour and the infringement of the guild-system. The outstanding artistic quality is also explained by the dynastic structure of the workshop and cooperations with other craftsmen. This is relevant to the cabinet-making of Johannes Mann (1679-1754), who was Eichler's apprentice and married his daughter Jakobina. Stetten highlighted Mann's repertoire comprising luxurious desks, cabinets and mirrors, characterised by a marquetry which from around 1720 tended to become more colourful due to the new use of materials such as amethyst, lapis lazuli and ivory in piqué technique (Stetten, op. cit., p. 116.) This distinct style of marquetry is exemplified by a magnificent altar (c. 1725) preserved in the Wavel Palace in Cracow, illustrated by Kowalski, op. cit., p. 76-77.The painted decoration of the interior of the altar in a rhombic pattern filled with Chinese motifs is stylistically very close to the decoration of the present chessboard. Also see a slightly earlier table en suite with a pair of candlestands (c. 1710-1720) in the James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor (National Trust), by De Bellaigue, op. cit., p. 550, no. 114, illustrated p. 553, the top of which is reproduced here in fig. 1, both of which can be attributed to the workshop of Johannes Mann and further craftsmen. A fascinating comparison can be made for the first time, with the table in the Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor as various figures on the chessboard are repeated such as the rhinocerous, the Chinamen with his head in a block, the faun with pipes, the seated Buddha, the pagoda amongst rockwork and clouds. Also the gilt-bronze lion mask mount on the base of the feet is similar to that on the frieze of this chess board. Both the table and chess board must almost certainly have been inspired by the same sources.
The material, technique and style characteristic of Augsburg cabinets and altar clocks of the Eichler/Mann workshop clearly influenced smaller furniture and new types after 1700, including the substantial group of chessboards with similar Boulle Chinoiseries. It seems that after c. 1720 Johannes Mann's role became that of an agent who maintained contact with his prestigious clients, as for instance in imperial Vienna, seeking commissions, while the workshop was run by his pupils, such as Emanuel Eichel (1690-1752) and Johann Heinrich Vogt (1683-1733). Vogt is recorded to have produced the garniture of table and two candlesticks at Weikersheim Palace, illustrated ibid. p. 81.
The Danzig-born Silberkistler, Emanuel Eichel, also worked mostly on a small scale, a little with wood (veneers), but mostly with tortoiseshell-panels, mother-of-pearl, ivory and the like. According to Stetten, Eichel produced , 'very fine jewellery-cases, boxes and further objects made of similar materials. His greatest piece was a jewellery box with the deeds of Emperor Charles VI referring to the territories gained back from the Turks, of which he had a description printed. Mister Karl Friderich Maurer, of Dresden, was Eichel's pupil.' (Stetten 1779, p. 118).
The production of the present Augsburg chessboard may be attributed to the workshop of Johannes Mann and Emanuel Eichel, c. 1720-1730. This is based on von Stetten, who in 1779 named three contemporary Augsburg specialists using tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl and ivory, namely Herz, Eichel and Maurer. The attribution also takes into account the new research on the material and stylistic development originating from the Eichler workshop, as transferred to his pupils.
The Chinoiserie chess-pieces are of great appeal due to their highly elaborate shape. Their combination of different materials from a variety of geographical areas such as the Meissen porcelain with gold mounts, imitation and seed pearls, tortoiseshell and rock crystal, is part of the tradition of the small grotesque figurines much in vogue in princely jewel-cabinets around 1700. The kings and queens appear as Oriental princely couples. They are flanked by the bishops in the form of Indian busts crowned with headdresses, which are linked by their exoticism and costliness to the elaborate shape of the rooks with finials of rock crystal.
The closest comparison to the present chessboard has been brought to our attention by Annette Loesch at the porcelain collection of the Zwinger Palace. The chessboard exhibited in Düsseldorf in 1997, Cat. Frühes Meissener Porzellan, op. cit., reproduced here in fig. 4, is of the same outline and has a drawers in two sides enclosing the chess pieces. The Chinoiseries and its colourful marquetry of brown tortoiseshell, engraved mother-of-pearl and transparent cow horn backed with red and green are very similar to those on the top of the present chessboard. Furthermore the kings and queens are made of the same Pagoden of Böttgerporzellan, which are mounted in a very similar fashion to those on the present set. The decoration of the Meissen figurines and porcelain bases in gold, silver and Muffelfarben may be securely attributed to the Auffenwerth workshop in Augsburg, dated 1725/26. Of the same date are the Southern German faience figurines of the pawns and the marquetry-work of the contemporary chessboard, equally attributed to the workshop of Mann and Eichel. The existence of this second complete chess set indicates that the board and the pieces of both sets are original and were made for each other. It is worthwhile noting that the illustrated chessboard has a 19th century inscription `Ambassade Royale de Swede', which provides an interesting link with the provenance of the present chessboard as a diplomatic gift.
The Meissen chess pieces:
There is a history of Meissen chess pieces made for Augustus the Strong as early as 1713 and these would have been made by Johann Friedrich Böttger, who died in 1719. There are several small-scale Pagoden, i.e. seated Chinese men, from this early period that have survived. Rückert op. cit., illustrates two figures similar to the kings and queens in this set, now in a private collection in Munich (cat nos 838 and 839) and refers to another example in Dresden.
Two others formed part of the Gumprecht collection see F. Goldschmidt & R. Schmidt, op. cit., nos. 347 and 348. Also see another pair in the Margaret and Franz Oppenheimer collection, Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1927, cat. Nos. 22-23. Four others appeared at auction on Paris see post. Two examples of the figures used as stems of ruby glasses in the Württembergisches Landesmuseum, Stuttgart, see Boltz, op. cit., p. 27, fig. 6.
The decorative style of the white Meissen porcelain and its gilding consisting of many little curves and arcs is indeed characteristic of the Augsburg Hausmaler of the 1720's. In 1765, Paul von Stetten records Johannes Auffenwerth and his daughter Frau Hosennestlin, as decorators of Meissen porcelain in gold and silver; so it is conceivable that the gold and silver painted decoration on the present figures was added in Augsburg by the Aufenwerth workshop.
Sources for the chinoiserie designs:
The designs on this chessboard take their inspiration from printed sources widely disseminated in Augsburg during the first quarter of the 18th century. Chinoiserie subjects were in high demand by Augsburg painters of Gold-Chinoiserien on Meissen porcelain. This may also have included Paul Decker's (1677-1713) pattern book, `Camin, Tabacks, Büchsen and Tischblatt Modelle' , a German architect and ornamental designer for goldsmiths' work, glass engraving and lacquerwork who plagiarised a number of Neuhof's engravings and have inspired the marquetry on both the Waddesdon table (see ante) and the present chess board.
The source for many of these Chinoiserie designs was Jan Neuhof's illustrated account of the first Dutch East-Indies embassy to China published in Amsterdam in 1655 (Het Gezantschap der Neêrlandtsche Oost-Indische Compagnie), the English edition by John Ogilby, An Embassy from the East-India Company of the United Provinces to the Grand Tartar Cham Emperor of China..., 1669) and Olfert Dapper's account of the second and third printed in 1670 (Gedenkwaerdig Bedryf der Nederlandische Oost-Indische Maetschappye). Some direct references can be seen seen, for the reclining Chinaman with his head in a block, from Jan Neuhof, reproduced in fig. 2, and the dragon, bird and the figure with the parasol from Decker, reproduced in figs. 3. One should also consider the three Neuhof engravings illustrated by Clarke, op. cit., p. 202, plates (1), (2) and (3), which must have influenced the depiction of the rhinoceros (originally inspired by Dürer's engraving), bird, banana tree, camel and monkey.
Furthermore, the printed sources could have been the engravings by Martin Engelbrecht (1684-1756), working in Augsburg and illustrated by Siegfried Ducret, Meissener Poirzellan. bewalt in Augsburg, 1718 bis un 1750, Vol. I, Goldmalereien und Bunte Chinoiserien , Zurich, 19171, pl. 279 and 286.
Comte Louis-Gabriel du Baut-Nançay(1732-1787):
He was a French diplomat and a historian who was elected to the Elector's court in 1772 (R. d'Amat & R. Limouzin, Dictionnaire de Biographie Française, Paris, 1966, fasc. LXV, p. 1098; De Laage de Meux, Un gentilhomme normand, 1902; Nouvelle Biographie Générale, Paris, 1855, Vol. VII, p. 679; Biographie Universelle, Paris, 1812, Vol. VI, p. 189). According to family tradition, 1772 is also the year in which du Buat-Nançay received the chessboard as a gift from the Elector.
In September 1787, du Buat-Nançay died without issue and was survived by his second wife, Louis (or Marie-Sophie, according to family history) Le Cordier Bigars de la Londe. Upon her death, the chess set was inherited by her brother, the Marquise de La Londe, president of the Normandy Parliament and mayor of Versailles who escaped to England during the revolution. His daughter married Comte Charles-Eugène de Gallye d'Hybouville, Master of the Hunt at the court of Charles X.
Their son Henri married Eugenie Passy, daughter of Hippolyte Passy, Louis Philippe's finance minister. Roger, their son, married Marthe Berard, daughter of Paul Berard, secretary to the French Embassy and an art collector. The chess set then passed by descent .
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