S otheby’s sale of Gold Boxes, Ceramics and Silver closing on 10 November, is a celebration of traditional British and European decorative arts from the past four centuries. The Ceramics section includes a collection of Minton and Royal Worcester pottery and porcelain which looks to distant lands for inspiration whilst the silver section features a pair of beautifully cast and chased candlesticks by the celebrated silversmith Paul de Lamerie.
Also included in the sale are three private collections of gold boxes, among them an important private European collection featuring some of the rarest Danish, Swedish and Norwegian objects of Vertu, as well as variety of brightly-enamelled Geneva, Hanau and Paris gold boxes.
Sotheby’s is delighted to present a magnificent group of gold boxes which has been carefully assembled over the course of a lifetime by a private Swedish collector. This splendid collection combines wonderful brightly-enamelled gold boxes in pastels and striking blue, made in Geneva or Hanau, with a strong Scandinavian focus, both in enamel and in chased or engine-turned gold (such as an unusual gold box by Peter Johan Ljungstedt, lot 13). It is extremely rare to be able to offer not only one but two gold and enamel boxes by the Swedish goldsmith Friedrich Fyrwald in one sale (lot 15). Furthermore, the celebrated royal Swedish court jeweller Frantz Bergs (c.1697-1778) is represented with a cartouche-shaped gold box chased with a classical figure of Athene within bold scrollwork (lot 4), and the marks of the somewhat elusive Danish goldsmith Nathaniel Falchengreen can be found on a charming gold rococo scent bottle decorated in colourful basse-taille enamel, 1757 (lot 5), with the only other example known so far belonging to Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen.
For generations, these precious gold and sometimes diamond-set snuff boxes, beautiful scent bottles (lots 6 and 9) and spice boxes such as the cornucopia-shaped example by Peder C. Beyer of Bergen (lot 14), have only been known to collectors and scholars through the relevant literature on Scandinavian gold boxes, as well as very few examples in renowned museums such as the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm or the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Among the highlights of this private collection in terms of provenance is also a sophisticatedly engine-turned jewelled gold and enamel presentation snuff box, set with a portrait miniature of Gustav III, King of Sweden (1746-1792), and presented by him to the Scottish Jacobite John Mackenzie, 4th Lord MacLeod in the late 1770s (Lot 10).
Sotheby’s is excited to present a remarkable number of these rare objects characterised by both their quality and the inventiveness of the goldsmiths, in one sale, thus presenting to collectors one of the very few rare chances to compare and contrast the extraordinary Swedish, Danish and Norwegian objects of vertu with gold boxes originating from the other centres of production in Europe, covering the mid-18th century to the early 20th century. This is especially interesting because scholars such as Bo Bramsen have traditionally concentrated on emphasising the influence that Parisian, Swiss and German goldsmiths have had on Scandinavian and especially Swedish objects of vertu. This might partially owed to the fact that production was generally much smaller in Sweden than in Paris or Hanau, but the present collection makes it very clear that Stockholm, Copenhagen and Bergen were very much centres of production in their own right with a distinct style, producing extremely sophisticated objets d’art. Although the goldsmiths were evidently open to foreign influences and techniques as part of an international culture transfer and the required awareness of fashions abroad, they most successfully incorporated those styles and fashions into their own recognisable and innovative gold and enamel objects of vertu in the 18th century.
In the French Style
The influence of French silversmiths on their English counterparts at the beginning of the 18th century is well known, and inspiration continued to flow across the Channel for years to come. The current Style sale includes two lots which illustrate this well: a pair of soup tureens made by Thomas Pitts in 1771 and a single soup tureen made by his son William 30 years later. Both are in the Neo-Classical style, although the earlier tureens have a far lighter and more delicate feel, whereas the one by William Pitts is at the more robust end of things. They demonstrate both the versatility of Neo-Classicism as a style and stand as fine examples of the importance of French silver design in England.
Translucent dark blue, bright amber, bonbon-coloured pastel pink, and striking dark green are only some of the colours of the sophisticated enamelled gold boxes in the present sale. It is one of the few occasions on which the rarest Swedish enamel boxes from an important private collection, decorated in very fine paillon work, such as lot 12 and 15, both by the goldsmith Friedrich Fyrwald, can be directly compared to the works of other centres of production for precious gold boxes in Europe: Three gold boxes by the only recently discovered Hanau bijoutier Esaias Fernau (1734-1795) are decorated with mythological or allegorical subjects in enamel (lot 17, lot 18, lot 80), and his contemporaries from Paris are represented by a handful of classy examples by well-known makers such as Jean-Etienne Blerzy (lot 75). The variety of enamelling is further demonstrated by a Danish basse-taille enamel scent bottle by Nathaniel Falchengreen, 1757, (lot 5), by typical late 18th/early 19th century Geneva enamelling (lot 20), as well as an enamel portrait miniature of Gustavus III, King of Sweden (1746-1792), ), attributed to the Swedish court painter Georg Henrichsen, set in a finely engine-turned box of Hanau origin (lot 10). Also of Hanau origin is a gold box with a lid enamelled en plein – yet another enamelling technique – with a view of the splendorous Vorontsov Palace on the crimea, painted by the Geneva enameller Jean David Berneaud in the mid-19th century (lot 95).
Not only does the sale cover around 100 years of enamelling, but it also includes other materials and techniques relevant to the diverse category of objects of vertu, traditionally defined as small precious and intricate items admired for their craftmanship. Among them are intricate micromosaics (lot 92), hardstone gold boxes, such as the early shell-shaped lapis lazuli example from Dresden (lot 45), a Regence mother of pearl box (lot 44), and of course the beautiful cagework boîte-à-miniatures with grisailles by the famous miniaturist Jacques-Joseph de Gault (lot 71), formerly in the collection of the British Rail Pension Fund.
John Nott, cook to a number of early 18th century English aristocrats, tells us in his book, The Cook's and Confectioner's Dictionary that a 'Terrine' (tureen) is the 'Name of a Dish us'd at Court . . ., which is made of Silver round and upright, holding about six Quarts, with two handles like those of a small Cistern.' When he wrote that in 1723 the silver tureen, used for various boiled meats and other savoury dishes and soups, was a novelty in England, having only lately been introduced from France. The first surviving examples date from that period although a reference to one in the list of silver issued by the Jewel Office in 1708 to Henri de Massue de Revigny, Earl of Galway (1648-1720), Britian's Ambassador to Portugal, proves that they were already known in London during the reign of Queen Anne.
After a while the silver soup tureen, sometimes in pairs, very occasionally in sets of four, became the focal point or centrepiece of a well-appointed table or sideboard. Both practical and decorative, much care and expense was lavished on their production. Throughout the remainder of the 18th century and well into the 19th, wealthy customers demanded of their silversmiths excellence in design and execution of such prominent objects.
The numerous shapes and decoration of English silver soup tureens defy categorization; their forms range from the whimsical to the severely classical. Of the former is Paul de Lamerie's 1750 masterpiece in the form of an upturned green turtle, now in The Paul Cahn Collection. In the same class was an example advertised for sale at Phillips's Auction Rooms on 20 August 1805 among the stock of John Sanderson, bankrupt silversmith of St. James's Street: 'A Chased Naval Tureen, with appropriate Devices and Figures, richly chased, with shifting Decks, (to serve occasionally for Soup or Deserts, or to be used with Glass Decanters for Wine).' (The London Gazette, London, 6 August 1805, p. 1012a)
To serve occasionally for Soup or Deserts' clearly means that such vessels, apart from their ornamental appeal, became essential elements in the ritual of formal dining. A favourite filling for an opulent tureen was oyster soup: 'Put half a hundred oysters along with their liquour into a stewpan, and heat them gently until beginning to simmer. . . drain them upon a sieve, catching the liquor in a basin . . . Take off the beards, return these to the liquor, and put the oysters into the soup tureen, as they will require no more cooking. Melt in a stewpan a quarter of a pound of butter, and mix with about six ounces of flour. . . . Add to this the liquor and beards of the oyster, two quarts of good veal stock, and one of milk. Stir the whole over the fire till it boils; season it with pepper, cayenne, and salt, to which may be added a little essence of anchovies; after it has boiled for about ten minutes, skim it, add a gill of good cream, strain it through a hair sieve into the tureen containing the oysters, and serve it hot. (Hartelaw Reid, Cookery, Rational, Practical, and Economical, 2nd edition, London, 1855, pp. 100-101)
This magnificent and extensive service is inspired by an 18th century palatial service which reflects the taste and exuberance of the Berlin Royal factory’s first and most important supporter, Frederick the Great. The original service, known as the Breslauer Stadtschloss service was delivered in around 1767 for Frederick’s Royal palace in the Silesian city of Breslau, present day Wrocław, Poland. The service represents Frederick’s love of the rococo style with an emphasis on natural forms and flow in contrast to the more formal symmetry of the neo-classical style favoured by Europe’s elite at the time.
Frederick the Great had a great passion for porcelain and would on occasion be involved with the design of services with great attention paid to the specific setting in which the service was to be displayed. He took over the failing Gotzkowsky factory in Berlin in 1763 and as its main patron encouraged the production of spectacular services as an ostentatious show of his personal power as well as porcelain as gifts from the King; essentially a diplomatic sign of royal favour. A significant part of the original service remains intact as part of the collection curated by the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstgewerbemuseum and can be seen at Schloss Köpenick. In its long and illustrious history, the Berlin (K.P.M.) produced wares to rival and exceed the other leading factories of Europe and like their contemporaries they would frequently look to their past for inspiration. The present service demonstrates the reverence in which the 18th century Royal services were held.
The tin-glazed earthenware of the British Isles, known as `delftware` was produced from the late 16th century into the 19th century and most of the production was for practical items such as tiles and wares for apothecaries. Many of the pieces which survive in public and private collections today have been preserved because of their commemorative and royal connotations. This simply decorated plate tells the story of the Royal Oak in which the future Charles II hid with his companion, Captain Careless (later Carlos) following the catastrophic defeat of the Royalist forces at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.
The story was recorded by the diarist Samuel Pepys in 1680 following Charles’s restoration and became a popular patriotic tale. The decorators of English delftware represented this story in the 17th century on large dishes known as chargers and on a famous plaque now in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum. The subject took on a different significance following the Hanoverian Succession and was used to express sympathy with the Jacobite cause and surviving examples can be dated stylistically to the periods of the uprisings of 1715 and 1745.
From its inception European pottery and porcelain has been influenced by the products of the Far East. Whether it is the Ming Dynasty blue and white porcelain influenced wares of Delft or the Kakiemon inspired porcelain of Meissen, European makers have aspired to equal Asian wares. The 19th century sees an evolution in the techniques to produce new and innovative wares as well as the designers who understand the capabilities of the materials they are working with. This takes place at a time when the past was being categorized in a much more rigorous way and efforts were underway to catalogue the relics of earlier cultures.
European makers of the 17th and 18th century not only imitated imported china but adapted forms and decoration to suit their own clientele, similarly factories in Britain and Europe, eager to stand out at the increasingly popular industrial exhibitions and fairs were able to create exotic pieces for ornament or practical purposes which had an air of the unusual and the ancient which appealed to a wealthy and informed audience. In this context one sees industrial factories creating ornamental wares influenced, for example, by the form of archaistic vessels from the Chinese Bronze Age which were richly decorated with glazes reminiscent of Middle Eastern and Chinese glazes of the 15th century. They were also able to produce wares which could imitate the products and aesthetics of a world which was being brought closer to Europe through improved transportation, increased trade and powerful media such as photography.