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VIENNESE ROCOCO

An Austrian gilt-bronze and enamelled eight-light chandelier, Vienna, circa 1760
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15

VIENNESE ROCOCO

An Austrian gilt-bronze and enamelled eight-light chandelier, Vienna, circa 1760
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

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An Austrian gilt-bronze and enamelled eight-light chandelier, Vienna, circa 1760
the vase shaped stem, decorated with polychrome enamelled flower panels set within bronze framing and topped by a bouquet of flowers, issuing eight scrolling branches ending in painted enamel drip pans and nozzles, the drip pan with cast bronze edge with painted flowers
approximately 108cm. high., 88cm. wide; 3ft. 6½in., 2ft. 10¾in.
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Provenance

Collection of Michel C. Salvago (1875-1948), Alexandria;

Private collection.

Literature

COMPARATIVE LITERATURE

Wienerisches Mercantil Schema oder Verzeichniß aller in Wien befindlicher..., Wien., 1768.

Raschauer, O., Geschichte der Innenausstattung des Schlosses Schönbrunn, Wien, (Dissertation Thesis), 1926.

Iby, E., ‘The Chinese Cabinets in the Historical Context of Schönbrunn Palace’s Interior Decoration’’, in Krist. G., & Iby, E., Investigation and Conservation of East Asian Cabinets in Imperial Residences (1700 - 1900) Lacquerware and Porcelain Conference 2013 Postprints., Vienna 2015, p.11-23;

Iby, E., ‘Habsburg’s Passion for “Indian” Goods to Create the Most Precious Cabinets of Schönbrunn Palace’, in Krist, G., & Iby, E., Investigation and Conservation of East Asian Cabinets in Imperial Residences (1700 - 1900) Lacquerware, Porcelain, Paper & Wall-Hangings Conference 2015 Postprints., Vienna 2018, p.11-22;

Kraty, A. M., ‘The East Asian Cabinets at Schönbrunn Palace at Their Archive Sources’, in in Gabriela Krist and Elfriede Iby, Investigation and Conservation of East Asian Cabinets in Imperial Residences (1700 - 1900) Lacquerware, Porcelain, Paper & Wall-Hangings  Conference 2015 Postprints., Vienna 2018, pp.335-341;

Catalogue Note

Imbued with the characteristic Rococo spirit that was sweeping across Europe in the mid-18th century, this rare chandelier, with exquisitely painted enamels, is a superlative example of Austria’s interpretation of this style and needs to be understood in the context of Empress Maria-Theresa’s patronage.

Around 1744, the Empress decided that the former Imperial hunting lodge at Schönbrunn deserved a wider role in courtly life and commissioned her architect Nikolaus Pacassi to enlarge it appropriately as her Imperial Summer residence, but also to redecorate the interiors in the new Rococo fashion.

A decade later, the Empress and her husband Francis of Lorraine visited Prince Joseph Wenzel of Liechtenstein’s palace where he had a Chinese Porcelain cabinet. This led the Imperial couple to commission two Chinese Cabinets for Schönbrunn, now known as the East Asian Cabinets, as part of the second phase of works at the Palace (fig.1). Of white panelling with fine gilded carvings, these highly private rooms - reserved for the Empress’s close circle -  were inset with mirrors and Chinese black lacquer panels, further decorated throughout with Chinese, Japanese and Viennese porcelain wares, creating an exotic ambiance which still impresses visitors today. The Empress had a clear taste for Far Eastern and exotic objects, and architecture allowed her to create rich ensembles where the whole was more than the sum of the parts. As referred to by Iby, when discussing these rooms,"(...) the significance, knowledge and appreciation are [no] longer focused on a single object; single objects are used and subordinated to the room concept as a synthesis of the arts- a Gesamtkunstwerk- to attain the impression of superlative value” (Iby, op.cit., 2018, p.21).

In this total work of art, lighting played a key role and the chandelier certainly a central one. Through gilt-bronze and enamel wall appliques and chandeliers, lighting was therefore conceived in the same playful and feminine way that characterises the Maria-Theresian Rococo style seen in these rooms - gilt bronze and metal to match the panelling, enamel flowers and panels in dialogue with, and in part emulate, the porcelain. 

Each of the cabinets has a gilt-bronze and enamelled chandelier comparable to the present lot, with another important room in the palace's bel étage - today known as the Millions Cabinet - holding a third, all of which were almost certainly produced in the same workshop as the chandelier here on offer. Of similar proportions and dimensions, conception and decoration, they have similarly inset enamel panels within gilt-bronze frames decorated with flowers. All seem to be constructed in the same manner in two sections, vertically joined through the stem. The one in the Millions Cabinet (fig.2) appears to be the closest in outline to the present lot, with the same baluster shape stem, wider than the Chinese Cabinets examples.

This room was originally named Feketinkabinet, and was used by Maria Theresa as a private reception room, and derives its name from the Brazilian rosewood with which it is panelled with, known then has Feketin wood. The panelling is inset with Indo-Persian miniatures creating another magnificent Rococo exotic interior.

In the absence of 18th century inventories, we only have a first reference to these three chandeliers in an 1812 inventory, where they are mentioned, understandably, as made of porcelain - “Luster von Bronze mit porzellanenen Blumen – Verzierungen mit 8 Arm" (Raschauer, op. cit., p. 299) .

Through the unusual use of enamel on this scale, this group of chandeliers has a distinct Viennese character, with the use of white ground polychrome enamel as a decorative vehicle, in dialogue with the luminous gilt-bronze. Examples of Meissen porcelain chandeliers, together with the Parisian objet’s d’art with bronze and porcelain flowers might have inspired these pieces, and the relationship with porcelain cannot be understated, as enamel painters were usually the same as those working in porcelain.

In the present lot, the designs of the candle nozzles, which have a late berainesque feel, seem to have been inspired by designs produced by the Du Paquier porcelain manufacture in earlier years. The central panels design have a freer outline, replicating the third dimensional bouquet that surmounts the chandelier, which again reminds us of the naturalistic and imaginative Rococo pieces which were in vogue from 1745, in Paris, with delicate porcelain flowers. These were incredibly fashionable among courtiers, and the marchands-merciers in the mid-18th century used them to decorate candelabra, chandeliers, candlesticks as well as clocks, and some of this Parisian production certainly reached Vienna. The central vase of the chandelier stem can be interpreted as a water ewer holding a bouquet of flowers, which, at its natural hanging height, creates an illusion that puts naturalia and artificialia in playful contrast.

Enamelling in Vienna is normally associated with the rich production of the second half of the 19th century. Nevertheless, this derives from a tradition from the previous century which produced important enamellers such as Philip Ernst Schindler (1723-1793), who excelled in pictorial enamel decoration for snuff boxes, in addition to his role as head of the Imperial Porcelain manufacture. A Viennese snuff box sold by Sotheby’s, London (25 October 2016, lot 724), displays enamel similar to our chandelier, with a combination of berainesque designs to the lid and a bouquet of flowers to the underside.

Another enameller active in Vienna at the time was Christoph von Jünger (1736-1777), and he is commonly associated with the wall appliques at Schönbrunn and with those that have appeared on the market over the last few decades, this due to the fact that he is the best documented craftsman working in Vienna in this technique, and furthermore head of the Oriental Enamel Factory in which he employed 50 workers. 

A Viennese calendar of 1768 (Wienerisches Mercantil Schema..., p. 40) lists a number of enamellers - including Jünger, but also Jakob Matern, Anton Franz Josef Schulz (active since 1726), Johann Weißenböck and Johann Willand – giving us a sense that there were multiple talented craftsmen capable of such work. Like Christoph Jünger, these enamellers would work both on metal, but also as painters for porcelain.

Besides the mentioned Imperial examples at Schönbrunn, and the present lot, only one other example of a similar chandelier seems to exist, reportedly on the Parisian market in the 1990’s. Wall lights of the model seen at Schönbrunn complementing the chandeliers seem on the other hand to be more recurrent; for example, a set of four twin-branch wall appliques was sold with Sotheby’s London, 31 October 2017, lot 124 (£37,500) and one other pair is with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1974.356.173.174), formerly in the Lesley and Emma Sheafer Collection.

Michel C. Salvago (1875-1948)

This chandelier was formerly in the celebrated collection of Michel Salvago. Described in Michael Haag’s book Alexandria, City of Memory as “a leading cotton baron and president of the Greek community, whose classical style villa (now the Russian Cultural Centre) and gardens on the corner of Rue des Ptolemees and Rue des Pharaons occupied an entire block in the heart of Alexandria”. The Salvago family’s many notable achievements included the creation of the National Bank of Egypt in 1898. Michel also was a partner in the Alexandria Water Co. Ltd, the Ramleh Railway Co. Ltd, the National Insurance Company of Egypt, the Société Anonyme de Nettoyage et Pressage de Cotton and in 1905 was the founder of the Land Bank of Egypt.

Michel’s wife Argine was “the leader of society” and with her striking violet eyes had been “one of Europe’s most beautiful women, the toast of Paris in her youth”. Their position in society and international reach allowed them to build a prestigious and sophisticated art collection, housed in their palatial villa. The villa was considered so grand that when King George II of Greece came to stay during WW II, he said he would be embarrassed to return Salvago’s hospitality in Athens. In April 2017, Sotheby’s had the honour of offering for sale a group of the Salvago Ottoman textiles which were met with astonishing enthusiasm due to the quality and marvellous provenance of the works offered.

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