Lot 17
  • 17

A pair of Royal German silver six-light candelabra, Johann Engelbrecht, Augsburg, 1729-33

800,000 - 1,200,000 GBP
968,750 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Silver
tri-form base cast and chased with Régence ornament, supporting rampant lions joyously holding bombs, on scroll brackets and enclosing fitted war trophies including cannons, cannon balls, rifles, pikes, armour, pistols and helmets, shaped circular stems applied with bearded masks with oak leaf hair rising to Prussian eagles flanking a crown and the cypher of Friedrich Wilhelm I, five scroll branches, detachable  campana nozzles and drippans, repeated at the finial forming the sixth light, engraved scratchweights 87M 12 and 87M 10,  fully marked


Friedrich Wilhelm I, King in Prussia and Elector of Brandenburg
By descent to the present owner


Catherine Arminjon, Quand Versailles était meublé d'argent, Château de Versailles, 2007-2008, ill. Fig. 74, p. 91 and cat. 48

Wilfred Rogasch, Schatzhäuser Deutschlands Kunst in adligem Privatbesitz, 2004, pl. 91

Melita Jonas, Gold und Silber Für Den König…, 27 June-20 September 1998Stiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten, Berlin Brandenburg,  p.104

Christiane Keisch, Das Grosse Silberbuffet aus dem Rittersaal des Berliner Schlosses, Berlin, 1997, Taf. 3 and p. 33

Lorenz Seelig, Silber und Gold, Augsburger Goldschmiedekunst für die Höfe Europas, Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, 23 Feb.-29 May 1994, no 81

Kaiserlicher Kunstbesitz aus dem Holländischen Exil Haus Doorn, Berlin, 1991, no. 196

Hermann Schadt et al. Kaiserlisches Gold und Silber, Schätze der Hohenzollern aus dem Schloss Huis Doorn, Deutsches Goldschmiedehaus, Hanau, 24 November 1985-23 February 1986,  no 60, illus. 33

Julius Lessing, Der Silberfchatz des Königlichen Schloffes zu Berlin,  in `Gesammelte Studien zur Kunstgeschichte, eine Festabe für Anton Springer`, Leipzig, 1885, pp. 121-143

Related Literature:
Alfred Hagemann and Matthew Winterbottom, `New discoveries concerning the Berlin silver buffet’, in Silver Studies, The Journal of The Silver Society, number 22, 2007, pp. 117-122

Thomas Carlyle, History of Friedrich II. of Prussia called Frederick the Great, London,  1858-1865

Memoirs of Frederica Sophia Wilhelmina, princess royal of Prussia…, London, 1812

Paul von Stetten, Kunst-Gewerb-und Handwerks-Geschichte der Reich-stadt, Augsburg,  Augsburg 1779, pp. 478 and 479

Friedrich Nicolai, Beschreibung der Königlichen Residenzstädte Berlin und Potsdam, 3rd edition, Vol. II, Berlin, 1786, p. 863


Michaela Völkel, Kronschatz und Silberkammer der Hohenzollern, Berlin-Brandenburg, 2010, nos. 75, 78 and 81

Helmut Seling, Die Augsburger Gold und Silberschmiede 1529-1868, Munich, 2007, no. 1974 (h)

Marc Rosenberg, Der Goldschmiede Merkzeichen, Frankfurt a.M., 1922, no. 814 (f-g)

E. Alfred Jones, The collection of silver plate of His Imperial Majesty the German Emperor, Connoisseur, Vol. XIV, January-April 1906, part II, pp. 88-91

Catalogue Note

The candelabra arrived in Berlin from Augsburg just in time for the wedding of Friedrich Wilhelm’s daughter Philippine Charlotte to Karl I, of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Philippine Charlotte’s wedding occurred on 2 july 1733, while on the 11th of the previous month, her brother Friedrich (Frederick the Great) was married to Karl’s sister Elizabeth Christine, thus establishing a double alliance, between the important Protestant houses of North Germany, Prussia and Brunswick. In the light of this, the Prussian eagles above Brunswick lions, who joyously hold instruments of war, might be seen as an image of the military alliance through marriage of these two states

An original record of the order from Augsburg, was made by Johann Jacob Frings, master of the Augsburg mint (1725-1752). It was published in 1885, in an article by Julius Lessing who compiled his information from a number of 18th and 19th century sources.

One pair of candelabra perfectly matches the description of the present pair. Listed separately from the other eight candelabra, they are recorded as:

Zwei Gueridons mit Fechs [sic] Leuchtern, Adler, Kronen, Löwen und Kriegs armaturen..177 (Mark) 14 (Löth).2 

Fring’s list, of silver produced or shipped during 1731-33 and brokered by the silver dealer Johann Balthasar II Gullmann and his son Johann Friedrich, comprised, 56 wall lights, 4 mirrors, 4 tables, 10 candelabra and 9 various pieces. One of the heaviest orders ever given to Augsburg goldsmiths,3 amounting to 35,597 marks in weight, equivalent to just under 8.5 metric tons of precious metal.4 5  It was, in the words of Paul Stetten writing in 1779, `Eine Fehr [sic] Große und Wichtige Bestellung…’ (A very great and weighty order).

Such magnificence was obligatory for the sovereign, as reassurance for his subjects and as a means of defying his rivals. The Hohenzollern had only recently attained royal status (1701) and Friedrich Wilhelm (1688-1740) with this massive display of silver, was reinforcing the message, of majesty, wealth and power, made at the end of the previous century by his father Friedrich, the First Prussian king (1657-1713). In the late 1690’s, the latter had created a massive permanent wall-mounted silver buffet, opposite the throne, in the Rittersaal of the Berlin Schloss. (Stadtschloss)

For the 1731-33 order instructions had been given to make the individual items as heavy as possible. These sculpted masses of precious metal, (the individual wall lights weighed over 100kg each), undoubtedly appealed to the particular nature of Friedrich Wilhelm. From the moment of his father’s interment in 1713, Friedrich set about reforming the state. Brutally honest and with little social grace, to him cutting costs was a moral obligation. Thomas Carlyle, biographer of his son Frederick the Great wrote:

“Yearly he made his country richer; and this not in money alone (which is of very uncertain value, and sometimes has no value at all, and even less), but in frugality, diligence, punctuality, veracity,--the grand fountains from which money, and all real values and valours spring for men. To Friedrich Wilhelm in his rustic simplicity, money had no lack of value; rather the reverse. To the homespun man it was a success of most excellent quality, and the chief symbol of success in all kinds. Yearly he made his own revenues, and his people's along with them and as the source of them, larger: and in all states of his revenue, he had contrived to make his expenditure less than it; and yearly saved masses of coin, and "reposited them in barrels in the cellars of his Schloss”.6

Friedrich Wilhelm had also been impressed by what he saw during his visit his visit in 1728 to Dresden, as guest of his neighbour Augustus II, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony. Augustus had refurbished Dresden in 1718 for the marriage of his son to the daughter of the Hapsburg emperor, radically adding to the Saxon silver treasury and including his own wall mounted silver buffet which by 1728 had been enhanced and moved to the Green Vaults. Friedrich Wilhelm’s daughter Wilhelmine (1709-1758), mentions this rivalry in her memoirs, published in English in 1812. She was married to the margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth in November 1731 and in processing through the state rooms towards the Rittersaal of the Berlin Schloss, where the ceremony eventually took place, she wrote:

‘the second room is still more superb; the pier glasses are of massy silver and the mirrors twelve foot in height…the chandelier is much larger than in the first room and the furniture of each apartment increases proportionally in size. The last hall7 contains the largest pieces. Here are the portraits of the King and Queen, and those of the Emperor and Empress as large as life, in massy silver frames. The chandelier weighs 50,000 dollars (approx.175kg ); the globe is so large that a child of eight might conveniently sit in it. The plates (Wandleuchter/wall lights) are six feet high and the stands twelve…The King my father got all this plate after his first visit to Dresden. He had seen in that town the treasure of the King of Poland. He wishes to surpass that monarch and being unable to excel him in precious and rare stones, he bethought himself of getting what I have described that he might possess a novelty of which no sovereign of Europe had yet been possessed’.8 

Following melting of silver into coinage, in 1745, 1757 and 1809, to pay for Prussia/Brandenburg wars under Frederick the Great and reparations to France under Napoleon, all that remains of the huge order are the candelabra and a pair of pastry boxes.9

It is not know where the candelabra were first displayed after arrival in 1733, but around 1763 they had become part of the silver buffet in the Rittersaal of the Berlin Schloss. They were placed on the table of the cabinet Auf dem Schenktisch siehet,10  flanking the great wine fountain and cistern and taking part of the space formerly occupied by a pair of massive English wine coolers which were subjected to a war-related melting of silver in 1745.11 

The Rittersaal Buffet

These wine coolers, the size and shape of baths; at over 300kg for the pair, `two of the heaviest and most expensive presents supplied by the Jewel House’,12  were a gift from Friedrich I’s cousin by marriage, William III, King of Great Britain in 1694, and are believed to have provided inspiration for the construction of the silver Buffet in the Rittersaal (throne room) of the Berlin palace . This was a permanent floor to ceiling display, of modern silver-gilt from Augsburg, surrounded by, but outdoing older white silver pieces such as the royal English wine coolers. It providing a reflection opposite the throne, of the wealth, majesty and confidence of the elector of Brandenburg, who by the time it was permanently on display in 1703 had become Friedrich I, king in Prussia.

The candelabra are recorded on the Rittersaal Buffet in an inventory of 1777 but were probably included by 1763 when the silver treasure returned from Magdeburg at the end of the Seven Years’ War.13 The treasure had been sent away for safekeeping in 1757, the year that Frederick the Great invaded Austria and while part of it was taken to the fortress at Magdeburg, for safekeeping, another part was melted, to pay for the war. Coupled with the previous melting of 1745 this had created gaps in the original Buffet silver.

A coloured drawing of the buffet exists and although probably executed at the end of the 18th century is thought to show the position of Buffet silver items, after their return from Magdeburg in 1763. The candelabra are clearly visible on the ends of the cabinet table. (see detail)

In the following inventory of 1793 the candelabra are again recorded on the Buffet of the Rittersaal, placed on either side of the older Great cistern and wine fountain and next to the pastry boxes by Johann Ludwig Biller II (weighing approximately 60kg. each), which had been part of the same 1731-33 order.14

During the Napoleonic period, Brandenburg/Prussia had to pay a war indemnity to France following defeat at Jena and considerable silver was melted n 1809, while the remaining treasure was taken to Königsberg in East Prussia for safekeeping. The Buffet silver was scheduled for melting at this point but was reprieved due to an intervention by Hofrat und Hofstaatssekretär Busseler with the king.15 

After Waterloo, the treasure came back from Konigsberg and the candelabra are recorded in 1816, at the extreme end of the buffet table.16 

In 1828 the court jeweller Johann Georg Humbert was contracted to clean and repair the buffet silver: it was at that time that the candelabra were inscribed with their then current weights.17 The buffet was painted in 1847 (see detail) and clearly shows the candelabra in their usual position. The painting also shows how the silver-gilt is framed by a border of white silver as it was originally.

After World War I, an agreement was reached with the state, that silver which was architecturally part of the Stadtschloss such as the silver buffet should remain in the palace as state property. The agreement applied to the original late 17th century silver-gilt elements of the buffet, but included four of the six remaining pieces from the 1731-33 order because they were also silver-gilt.18 The candelabra being white, became private property after World War I, although they were still on the buffet in 1922.19 

They were not taken to the Netherlands during the emperor’s exile (1919-1941) but were removed in 1944 to the family’s ancestral home of Hohenzollern castle at Hechingen.20


1 Seelig in Quand Versailles était meublé..., op. cit., no. 48.

2 Lessing, op. cit., p. 132.

3 Silver and Gold, p. 30.

4 One Augsburg mark was equivalent to 236.2gr.

5 Stein, "Weights on Continental Silver", The Silver Society Journal, 1997, p. 571.

7 This `last hall’ is thought to refer to the Weisser Saal on the same floor as the Rittersaal in the Stadtschloss see: Kronschatz, op. cit., p. 90.

8 Memoirs of Frederica Sophia Wilhelmina…, op. cit., vol. 1, pp. 352 and 353.

9 Staatl. Museen zu Berlin, Kunstgewerbemusuem, Schloss Köpenick; A pair of soup tureens with their spoons in the same museum but not recorded by Frings, are associated with this order.

10 Journal of the Silver Society, op. cit., p. 118.

11 PK Potsdam no. 40, cited by Keisch, op. cit. p. 190.

12 Glanville in Diplomats and Goldsmiths, op. cit. p. 119.

13 Keisch, op.cit., pp. 190-197.

14 Keisch, op.cit., pp. 190-191.

15 Keisch, op. cit., p. 36.

16 Keisch, op. cit., p. 194.

17 Keisch, op. cit., p. 37.

18 Private information.

19 Rosenberg, op. cit.

20 Private information.