The Pleasure of Objects: The Ian & Carolina Irving Collection

The Pleasure of Objects: The Ian & Carolina Irving Collection

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 97. Royal: A North German Rococo Beadwork and Stained Walnut Games Table by Johann Michael van Selow, Brunswick, Circa 1755.

Royal: A North German Rococo Beadwork and Stained Walnut Games Table by Johann Michael van Selow, Brunswick, Circa 1755

Auction Closed

January 30, 06:14 PM GMT


10,000 - 15,000 USD

Lot Details


height 30 in.; width 35 in.

76 cm; 88.5 cm

Probably collection of George II, King of Great Britain and Ireland and Elector of Hanover (1683-1760), thence by descent in the House of Guelph collections to the Princes of Hanover, Schloss Marienburg, Lower Saxony, Germany;

Acquired directly from Prince Ernst August of Hanover (b.1954) in 2000

Dr Henriette Graf, Die Braunschweiger Korallenfabrik des Johann Michael van Selow, Brunswick 2023, cat. no. 5.2a

Although beadwork decoration and objects were produced in several European countries in the 18th century, by far the best known and most accomplised centre was the factory established in Brunswick by Johann Michael van Selow (b.1704 or 1705). Thought to originate from Amsterdam, van Selow was recorded in Brunswick by 1755, where he is described as a Muschelarbeiter ('shell worker'), and during the city's trade fair in February 1756 he placed an advertisement in the Braunschweigische Anzeigen newspaper for wares made of corallen (small glass beads), which were described as a new invention. The workshop was under the patronage of the enlightened Charles I, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (1713-1718), who had transferred the residenz of his principality from Wolfenbüttel to Brunswick in 1753 and actively promoted the economic and artisanal development of his domain, founding the nearby Fürstenberg porcelain manufactory in 1747 and the Stobwasser lacquer workshops in 1763 (see lot 137 in this auction).

The technique consisted of laying strings of small glass beads joined by linen thread on to a wooden surface primed with a plaster composition, creating designs derived from contemporary rococo motifs such as scrolls, shellwork, birds, fruit and floral sprays as well as architectural and garden vignettes. Some of the compositions may have been designed by the local painter Conrad Rudolph Pfeiffer. Unlike furniture with inlaid wooden marquetry, corallen wares never fade as the glass beads retain their original vibrant colour. The technique is best suited to flat surfaces and although a few more ambitious works survive, like the monumental covered urn on stand now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (W.45:1-1936), the majority of van Selow's output consisted of smaller tea caddies and boxes and especially table tops. Despite the favourable reception of Brunswick bead tables among wealthy buyers throughout northern Germany, the enterprise was never a financial success, and in 1767 the direction of the factory was transferred to the joiner Thiele Heinrich Eggeling, before it closed definitively in 1772.

An almost identical games table to the present lot, presenting the same foliate and scrollwork border but with the inclusion of four trompe-l'oeil playing cards, was sold Sotheby's Amsterdam, 27 March 2007, lot 449 [fig.1]. Another similar tabletop is in Städtisches Museum Braunschweig (illustrated in Graf 2023, cat. no. 5.2), which like the Amsterdam and Irving/Hanover examples also eschews colourful fruit and leaf elements and employs a more restrained palette to achieve a more naturalistic effect. A further tea table with comparable decoration and colour scheme was sold Bonham's London, 29 July 2020, lot 123.


Conceived as a birthday gift by King George V of Hanover (reigned 1851-1866) to his wife Marie of Saxe-Altenburg (1818-1907), the Gothic revival Marienburg Castle, 30 kilometers south of Hanover, was designed by the architect Conrad Wilhelm Hase. Building work commenced in 1858 and was still unfinished when Hanover was annexed by Prussia in 1866 and the royal family forced into exile in Austria. After World War II it became the principal seat of the Princes of Hanover. In October 2005 a four-day auction of works of art from the family collections was held on the premises by Sotheby's Germany, including another tea table with a top by van Selow, lot 1465.