Lot 27
  • 27


25,000 - 35,000 EUR
bidding is closed


  • Indian ebony, ivory
  • Haut. 25 cm. ; Height 10 in.
the upper part with sixteen concentric pierced spheres, on a pedestal


Literature references:
G. Grollier de Servière, Recueil d'ouvrages, curieux de mathématique et de mécanique, Paris, 1751
G. Laue, Gedrehte Kostbarkeiten, Munich, 2004
E. von Philippovich, Elfenbein, Braunschweig, 1961
C. Plumier, L'art du Tourneur, Lyon, 1701
E. Schlumberger, « Les ivoires tournés du palais Pitti », in Connaissance des Arts, December 1962, n. 130, pp. 156-163

Catalogue Note

Europe's interest for curiosities and its inventive spirit during the late Renaissance motivated certain countries to make ivory artefacts using a lathe. The first 'Kunstdrechsler', turnery artisans, had access to the the book, De Divina Proportione, by the monk Luca Paccioli published in 1509 and also had knowledge of complex drawings developed by Leonardo da Vinci. Southern Germany, notably the center of Nuremberg, a city of goldsmiths, scientists and especially mathematicians, was a major production center. Henceforth in Nuremberg, Peter Zick (1571-1629), founder of one of the most important workshops, invented the world's first pierced ball or 'Counterfeitkugeln'. These spheres or polyhedra, carved from a single block, containing a series of decreasing sized balls, reveals an alliance of mathematical knowledge, technical beauty and perfection. This workshop lasted until 1731.

Dresden and even Regensburg, where Johann Martin Teuber published a lathe manual in 1756, were also important hubs for the realization of these objects. France was also a country of production and the oldest reference concerning these objects was definitely that of Père Charles Plumier, L'art de Tourner en perfection, published in 1701. A master turner renowned in France was Nicolas Grollier de Servière. The latter was trained in Germany before receiving, once he was famous, Louis XIV in person for a visit of his workshop. This same craftsman named 'Pièces de Délicatesse' (delicate items) for his finely turned, molded and carved ivory wares. Others referred to them as 'Tours de Force' (powerful turneries). The 'Pièces Excentriques' (eccentric items) were those shaped atop different centers such as balls pierced with several openings, nested inside one another, like the first two lots presented. The 'Pièces Hors du Rond' (other than round items) consist of rectangular shapes, cubic, etc.

This art of crafting with one of the most valuable materials became even an aristocratic and princely pastime practiced by the Emperors Charles V, Rudolph II and Ferdinand II of Habsburg among others

Placed in curiosity cabinets or 'Kunstkammern', most have been dispersed but some collections have remained almost intact. Among the most important, we must mention today one belonging to the Medici family, still housed at the Museo degli Argenti of the Pitti Palace, and one in the Rosenborg Palace in Copenhagen.