A Silver Table Candlestick from the Royal Silver of the Wettin House in Saxony, Duke Friedrich August III. von Sachsen (1750-1827)
This silver candlestick originates from the Royal Silver Collection of the House of Wettin and, especially, from the property of King of Saxony and Duke of Warsaw Frederick Augustus III/I. On a round, moulded foot, the baluster-form shaft is raised above it, holding a cylindrical nozzle.
Underneath, there are engraved: the monogram ‘FA’, the inventory number ‘100’ as well as the scratchweights „1 Mr: 1 lt. 2qs. 1d“.
The candlestick belongs either to a set of 100 smooth, round table candlesticks with ‘FA’ and the maker’ mark ‘C.D.S.’ or to a set of 124 smooth facetted table candlesticks with ‘FA’ and the maker’ mark ‘C.D.S.’, as they are mentioned by O’Byrn in his inventory catalogue (s. O’Byrn 1880, p. 148). A set of twelve is still kept in the collections of the Grünes Gewölbe, Dresden.
Frederick Augustus III/I, King and Elector of Saxony and Duke of Warsaw (1750-1827)
Frederick Augustus III was the second and only survived child of the Elector Frederick Christian (1722-1763) and his wife duchess Maria Antonia of Bavaria (1724-1780). His father took over power from Frederick Augustus II in 1763, but he died three months later.
Frederick Augustus III assumed political power for 59 years – and by this, he had the longest reign of all the members of the House of Wettin. Up to his 18thyear, his mother and his uncle Prince Franz Xavier of Saxony (1730-1806) set up the regency.
In 1769, Frederick got married to the Countess Palatine Maria Amalia Augusta of Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld (1752-1828), sister of King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria. The royal pair had four children, though only one daughter survived to adulthood, Maria Augusta of Saxony.
Frederick Augustus was rushed to participate against France during the Napoleonic Wars. However, Napoleon took the defeated Frederick to his side in 1806. Elector Frederick Augustus III became in 1806 King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony by the grace of Emperor Napoleon. In 1807, Napoleon had concluded peace with Frederick William III of Prussia and the tsar Alexander I of Russia in Tilsit. A consequence of this peace treaty was the nomination of Frederick Augustus as Duke of Warsaw. Frederick Augustus had already declined in a controversial decision the hereditary Polish Crown in 1791 and he could not thus decline this time too.
The bond to Napoleon obliged Saxony to dispose troops against the allies Prussians, Russians and Austrians. After the devastating for Napoleon Battle of the Nations in 16/18 October 1813, the King Frederick Augustus I was brought into jail in Berlin.
In 1815 the King of Saxony returned to his homeland. Saxony was administered first by a Russian and then by a Prussian General government, it lost two thirds of its territory and one third of its inhabitants. The next years of the reign of Frederick Augustus until his death remained calm.
The Royal Silver Collection of the House of Wettin
The court of the House of Wettin in Saxony was quite influenced from the French court of Louis XIV in Versailles since the reign of John George III, Elector of Saxony (1647-1691) and the Princess Anna Sophie of Denmark (1647-1717). Their table culture and in particular the silver services added a great glamour to the official life of the court.
In 1694, Prince Frederick Augustus followed as Elector his brother John George who died. Frederick Augustus obtained the royal crown of Poland. Between 1697 and 1763 and with a short interruption in 1706 and 1709, the electorate of Saxony came in personal union with the Kingdom of Poland and both electors of Saxony Frederick Augustus I and II reigned, bearing the royal name of Augustus II and Augustus III.
During the Augustus-era in the royal Saxon-Polish court began an unparalleled display of splendor, influenced particularly by the Versailles court, under the reign of Frederick Augustus I, also called August the Strong. The city of Dresden was still the headquarters of the government even after the acquisition of the polish crown and it was also the primary location for the royal silver collection, which gained in importance. Orders for silver objects were given mostly to gold- and silversmiths in Dresden.
After the Seven Years’ War some pieces of the Royal silver collection were melted down. However, since 1765 there have been given new orders for the Royal silver collection to two prominent brothers, Carl David and Friedrich Reinhard Schrödel.
Silver of the House of Wettin through the Ages
The Royal silver collection in Dresden existed in its entirety until the end of the First World War and the abolishment of monarchy. The collection was with no doubt one of the richest collections of silver in Germany. In 1919, every possession in Saxony that belonged to the House of Wettin was confiscated by the state. After 1924, the Royal collection of silver went to the property of the family association Haus Wettin Albertinische Linie e.V., the administrator of which was Prince Ernst Heinrich of Saxony, Duke of Saxony (1896-1971). The artworks of the eighteenth century had established the reputation of the Royal silver collection and they were particularly desired. In 1937, the objects and artworks of the collection were inventoried for the last time.
With the breakup of the Second World War, the Prince Ernst Heinrich prepared a detailed plan of security and evacuation from the Moritzburg castle. The artworks were in the centre of his rescue plan. For its preparation, only very few people had helped him, among them his two sons. In 1944, a part of the silver of the House of Wettin was put in wooden boxes, was stored and with the help of six French prisoners of war, they were buried (in total 43 boxes) or hidden in a church in Reichenberg. In 1945, some of the masterpieces of the Royal silver collection were taken off for security reasons. Despite this, many silver objects of this treasure were melted down after 1946/7, some were excavated, and some were transported to Russia as spoils of war.
After the war, some objects were given back to Germany in the 1990s. Other objects and artworks from the silver Royal collection of the Wettin House were smuggled in black market and were sold in different, exceptional auctions around the world.
The fascinating history of the silver collection as well as of the proprietor’s changes through the ages give to the silver collection of the House of Wettin allures of a legend. Many objects belonged already before but also after the war to some very famous collectors, like for instance the Bolivian tycoon, so-called ‘King of Tin’ Antenor Patiño (1896-1982) and the French watchmaker Louis Cartier (1875-1942).
Carl David Schrödel. Ancestor of the silversmith family Schrödel is Carl Heinrich Schrödel, born around 1679. He became master maker in Dresden in 1709. In 1724, he was appointed silversmith of the court and died in 1753.
His son, Carl David Schrödel, was born around 1712 and became a master maker in Dresden in 1741. He is accounted for being goldsmith and court jeweller. He died in Dresden in 1773.
Arnold, Ulli, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden – Grünes Gewölbe (Hrsg.), Dresdner Hofsilber des 18. Jahrhunderts, Berlin: Kulturstiftung der Länder – Bundesrepublik Deutschland – Freistaat Sachsen, 1994
Kretschmann, Georg, Das Silber der Wettiner: Eine Schatzsuche zwischen Moskau und New York, Berlin: Ch. Links Verlag, 1995
O’Byrn, Friedrich August,Die Hof-Silberkammer und die Hof-Kellerei zu Dresden, Dresden: Baensch, 1880.
Rosenberg, Marc, Der Goldschmiedemerkzeichen, Dritte erweiterte und illustrierte Auflage, Bd. II: Deutschland D-M, Frankfurt a. Main: Frankfurter Verlags-Anstalt, 1923