Graz suffered badly during the Silesian Wars (1740-42, 1744-45 and 1756-63), which explains the scarcity of silver made in the city at that time. These table ornaments, however, are very much in the long tradition of Hungarian silversmiths’ work, which included both models of animals and human figures as well as richly enamelled and jewelled groups. Some surviving examples are a pair of parcel-gilt silver models of peacocks, circa 1780 (Sotheby’s, London, 8 December 1983, lots 92 and 93); a silver-gilt model of a stag, circa 1790 (Sotheby’s, Geneva, 13 May 1996, lot 186); and a parcel-gilt silver and enamel table fountain in the form of three pitchers surmounted by a model of Krasznahorkai Castle, circa 1748 (Sotheby’s, Geneva, 14 May 1985, lot 181).
While models of stags are common for table ornaments and drinking cups, the subject of a horse and foal is much rarer. Equine models would have been very fitting for a Graz patron, however; the town had its own ducal stud, established in the 1580s. This was inaugurated mainly to provide a reliable source of horses at a time of constant attacks by Hungarian rebels and Ottomans; the latter are said to have assaulted the territory more than 20 times in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Ducal stud had also the privilege of owning some foals from the celebrated Lipizzaner. The breed was imported from Spain by Archduke Charles II in the 1580s to create a powerful white horse which became the icon of the Habsburgs dynasty. The stallions and mares were based in the village of Lipica, in present day Slovenia, from which the foals were sent to the imperial and ducal studs in Vienna and Graz ; from 1792, it was transferred to the village of Piber, even closer to Graz.
Styria was also rich in minerals, soft coal and iron, which has been mined since the Roman time at Erzberg, located 60km north of Graz. The two enamel and hardstones outcrops on the centrepiece are another reference to the local wealth. This reference to mining can be found similarly in local Hungarian silver production, such as the three pitchers cup aforementionned, and two models of a mine in silver and hardstone, see Sotheby’s New York, 28 October 1987, lot 155 and Christie’s Geneva, 12 May 1982, lot 180.
Joachim Vogtner (1722-1782) was a goldsmith of local repute who between 1758 and 1761 fulfilled the office of Obervorsteher (head of the goldsmiths’ gild), was chosen to work on special commissions. Son of the goldsmith Leopold Vogtner, to whom he was apprenticed, he became master on 18 February 1748. In 1765 he received payment for objects supplied on the occasion of the visit of Empress Maria Theresa. By 1773 he had taken his own son as apprentice and in 1777 he is recorded as receiving financial assistance (Armeleutgeld) from the goldsmiths’ company. The other maker's mark, IVK conjoined, could be for Josef Kern, who was the head of the goldsmiths' company of Graz between 1777 and 1793. He died in 1823, at the age of 88.
These rare table ornaments, appreciated by the collector Heinrich Jeidels, were formerly considered to be of 17th century German origin. A Jewish private banker who lived in Frankfurt during the middle of the 19th century, Jeidels was closely connected to the Rothschild family of the same city, who were also bankers and passionate art collectors. Jeidels’s sons, Julius Heinrich and Carl Jonas, commissioned a catalogue raisonné of their father’s collection of silver: Erzeugnisse der Silber-Schmiede-Kunst aus dem sechzehnten bis achtzehnten Jahrhundert. Objets d'orfèvrerie, XVIe-XVIIIe siècle, published in Frankfurt in 1883 by Ferdinand Luthmer, author of the catalogues of Mayer Carl Rothschild’s collection.
Heinrich Jeidels’s collection also included two German silver-gilt models of ships (one Salomon Dreyer, Augsburg, 1744, the other Esias zur Linden, Nuremberg, circa 1609-20, figs. II and XII the 1883 catalogue), both of which were acquired by J.Pierpont Morgan who in 1917 gave them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (museum nos. 17.190.320a,b and 17.190.319).
Heinrich's son, Julius Heinrich Jeidels (d. 1902), was a keen bibliophile whose collections of books were sold in 1903. One manuscript, dated 1572, is now in the Newberry Library, Chicago. In addition, he had an extensive collection of 1,200 finger rings which he donated to the Jewellery Museum in Pforzheim (Schmuckmuseum).
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